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'Serious threat to their wellbeing' | Law professors explore ramifications of allegations levied against Commanders

Two local professors discussed the possible consequences and next steps for Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder in the wake of an FTC investigation.

WASHINGTON — Congress thinks the Commanders may have committed a crime by keeping money that belonged to fans and other NFL teams -- serious allegations which were laid out in a 20-page letter sent to the Federal Trade Commission, Tuesday

The Committee on Oversight and Reform says Jason Friedman, a former employee of 24 years, testified that $5 million is owed to approximately 2,000 season ticket holders in unreturned security deposits. Friedman also reportedly told the Committee that he falsely processed more than $162,000 of revenue from Commanders game tickets, by claiming that money came from non-NFL games to avoid revenue sharing with the NFL. 

WUSA9 spoke with two local law professors to get further insight into the allegations and what will happen next with a Federal Trade Commission investigation. 

"I think what this letter does is start a backfire, and there are a lot of law agencies in this area who are going to be interested in these accusations, and accusations that are coming from an insider," Georgetown University Law professor, David Vladeck, said. "This is someone who really knows how the Commanders kept their books, and two separate books at least with respect to certain accounting."

Vladeck added that double bookkeeping could be pursued beyond the civil context with the FTC and could result in criminal charges as well.

"Maybe the Committee felt that the most important thing was to get money back into the pockets of the people who were scammed, and also to take a harder look at the bookkeeping that the Commanders have engaged in over an extended period of time," he said. "Double bookkeeping and cheating people, those things can be pursued both in a civil context with the Federal Trade Commission or perhaps in a criminal context." 

Bill Kovacic, a professor at George Washington University Law School, was more inquisitive as to why the Committee chose to go to the FTC first rather than straight to the Department of Justice saying,

"If the underlying allegations of misconduct are genuine and provable, then the Commanders have a very serious threat to their wellbeing, as well as the individuals who engaged in the behavior," he said. "If you think that crimes have been committed, then go to an authority that has the ability to impose criminal sanctions." 

The Commanders have not commented on the Congressional letter, but reiterated a statement they made on March 31 categorically denying "any suggestion of financial impropriety of any kind at any time." 

"The most common tool that the FTC uses in cases of misrepresentation or fraud, is typically to say they want an injunction and tell you not to do it again," Kovacic said. "But how many times have the Commanders and their owner been told not to do it again? How many times have they been exhorted to do things the right way and how relentlessly ineffective those exhortations have been."

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