The Commanders’ claims may prompt action by the FTC or the Advocates General

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The allegations of economic injustice against the Washington Commanders and their owner, Daniel Snyder, which were described this week in a letter sent by Democratic leaders of Parliament’s Committee on Supervision and Reform, raised the possibility of a response from a number of different entities.

The 20-page letter signed by rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (DN.Y.), chairman of the committee, and rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Chair of the Economic and Consumer Policy Subcommittee, was sent on Tuesday to Lina M. Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission. It was copied to Attorneys General Jason S. Miyares (R) of Virginia, Brian E. Frosh (D) of Maryland and Karl A. Racine (D) of DC along with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The commanders have denied having committed financial injustices.

Racine’s office said Friday it takes the allegations “very seriously” and “will not hesitate to act” if justified, but it remained unclear what the next steps in the case will be.

Congress tells the FTC about allegations of commanders’ ‘illegal’ behavior

The FTC did not respond to a request for comment Friday. The agency acknowledged Tuesday through a spokesman that it had received the committee’s letter, but declined to comment further.

William E. Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University who is a former chairman and former attorney general of the FTC, said in a telephone interview this week that congressional desires and the NFL’s high profile could push the agency toward taking action.

“You generally do not like to brush a legislative committee off, especially if you are the president, it is your own party, they want you to do something,” Kovacic said. “It’s awkward to say to them, ‘Get lost. We have too much else.’ They actually have too many other things to do, they have a whole collection of hugely ambitious, difficult projects that undoubtedly involve much higher efforts for society.… They have a lot of mergers that deal with lesser known industrial inputs or industrial markets that people do not understand. But they understand the National Football League. So that would draw you to do it. “

Still, Kovacic said the FTC’s lack of criminal law enforcement powers suggests the state attorney may be better placed to pursue the allegations.

“If they [the FTC] found something that could be called a crime, they should pass it on to someone else, which means going to the criminal department of the Department of Justice or maybe going to these state attorneys, ”Kovacic said. “They have absolutely no criminal enforcement authority. On the civilian side, their most important means is to ask people to stop it and not do it again, in order to get an injunction, a cease-and-desist order. There is a big question now, due to recent Supreme Court rulings on whether they have the power to force the commanders to give the money back to the victims. “

A spokesman for Racine said in a statement Friday that his office considers the allegations serious.

“We take these allegations against Washington Commanders very seriously, and if we find evidence that they have violated district law, we will not hesitate to intervene,” the spokesman said. “During AG Racine’s tenure in office, our consumer protection team has filed dozens of lawsuits against companies that harmed district residents – including some of the largest companies in the world – and we have secured more than $ 12 million in emergency aid.”

Congress is investigating allegations of financially inappropriate command from the commanders

The committee’s letter detailed claims made by Jason Friedman, a former vice president of sales and customer service who worked for the team for 24 years. Friedman accused the team of withholding as much as $ 5 million in refundable deposit from season ticket holders and also of hiding money to be shared between NFL owners.

The letter referred to evidence that it said indicated that the revenue earned by the team through such practices was internally known as “juice.” It described detailed allegations that the commanders wrongfully attributed such revenue to coming from a Navy-Notre Dame college football game at FedEx Field or a Kenny Chesney concert so that it would not be included in the NFL’s revenue sharing pool.

The team reiterated this week that it “categorically rejects any suggestion of economic inadequacy of any kind at any time.”

Frosh said in an interview Tuesday: “If what Mr. Friedman described is correct, it could be a violation of Maryland’s consumer protection law.”

A spokesman for Miyares’ office said: “We have received the letter and are reviewing it.”

If the FTC pursues the case, it is expected to conduct its own investigation and may force commanders to hand over records and make officials available for interviews under oath. The commanders could contest this mandatory process and would have time to collect and present the information.

Kovacic said the allegations involving the team’s ticket holders would be more relevant to the FTC than those involving revenue hidden from other NFL owners.

“I do not see the FTC spending much time getting the owners to help or wanting to spend a lot of resources figuring out if the other NFL owners were cheated,” Kovacic said. “About the ticket holders, that’s a different category.”

But despite these consumer-related issues, Kovacic said of the FTC: “They are queuing up for a host of other cases that go to the heart of their privacy authority, their broader consumer protection authority, their antitrust authority. How much time will you spend on the season ticket holders for the Commanders? ? I do not know.”

The NFL said this week that the financial allegations outlined in the committee’s letter would fall under the umbrella of the league’s ongoing investigation, conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. The NFL Players Association did not respond to requests for comment. The allegations of hidden revenue may draw attention from the union because NFL players receive a portion of the league’s revenue under the sport’s pay cap system.

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