The U.S. attorney’s office in the Eastern District of Virginia has begun a criminal probe into alleged financial improprieties by the Washington Commanders, ESPN reported Wednesday afternoon.
The report comes hours after news that Commanders owners Dan and Tanya Snyder hired Bank of America Securities to help with a potential sale of the team.
The report comes months after the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a 20-page letter to the Federal Trade Commission laying out allegations that Daniel Snyder withheld refundable deposits from ticket holders and hid revenue from the NFL.
The NFL declined comment to ESPN when asked directly if it was aware of the federal criminal probe.
“The NFL in April engaged former SEC chair Mary Jo White to look into this matter,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told ESPN. “The review is ongoing.”
Attorney generals in Virginia and Washington, D.C., are also investigating allegations of deceptive business practice and financial improprieties by the organization.
The team released a statement earlier Wednesday regarding a potential sale of the Commanders.
“The Snyders remain committed to the team, all of its employees and its countless fans to putting the best product on the field and continuing the work to set the gold standard for workplaces in the NFL,” the team announced.
According to a report Wednesday from Forbes.com, Snyder has already received “at least four calls” from parties interested in purchasing the team.
Snyder is said to be exploring all options, including selling the entire franchise or a minority stake.
“Any potential transaction would have to be presented to the NFL Finance Committee for review and require an affirmative vote by three quarters of the full membership (24 of 32 teams),” league spokesperson Brian McCarthy said in a statement on Wednesday.
In August, Forbes valued the Commanders at $5.6 billion, sixth among the NFL’s 32 teams. Snyder also owns FedEx Field and the 264-acre property that surrounds it, plus the 150-acre team headquarters in Ashburn, Va.
Sponsorship revenue has increased by 40 percent this season over 2021 since the team rebranded from the Washington Football Team to the Commanders, according to Forbes.
BofA Securities, previously known as Bank of America Merrill Lynch, provides services in mergers and acquisitions.
“We understand the challenges our clients face around the world,” reads the company’s website. “We combine local knowledge and global perspective to tailor solutions to meet clients’ goals.”
The bank handled Steve Ballmer’s 2014 purchase of the Los Angeles Clippers.
Snyder, 57, bought the team, then known as the Washington Redskins, in 1999.
Snyder’s wife, Tanya, has been in charge of day-to-day operations since July 2021 when the NFL fined the team $10 million for fostering a toxic workplace culture.
The discovery of potential financial impropriety came amid the committee’s investigation into sexual harassment within Washington’s workplace. The committee began to look at the financials after combing through 80,000 pages of documents and witness interviews regarding sexual harassment, the Washington Post reported on March 31.
The financial allegations center on the testimony of Jason Friedman, who worked for the franchise for 24 years. He held the title of vice president of sales and customer service when he was let go by the club.
Friedman told the committee that the team kept “two sets of books” to underreport ticket revenue to the NFL. Revenues from Commanders games would instead be shown as derived from non-NFL events, like college football games or concerts. Those monies were called “juice” — extra money for the team and kept hidden so as to not be subject to the NFL’s revenue-sharing pool, per the letter.
The committee also indicated that Snyder withheld as much as $5 million in refundable deposits from season ticket holders.
–Field Level Media