Attorneys for Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder obtained precise phone records along with emails, social media posts, and even a receipt from a flower shop as part of what House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney described as a “shadow investigation,” according to documents obtained by Front Office Sports on Thursday.
The aim of the 100-page PowerPoint presentation was to “discredit his accusers and influence the outcome” of an NFL investigation led by former U.S. Attorney Beth Wilkinson, according to the Oversight Committee.
The slideshow obtained by FOS — which was posted later Thursday by the Oversight Committee — is heavily redacted with more than half of the pages left blank with “WITHHELD BY THE COMMITTEE DUE TO POTENTIAL PRIVACY CONCERNS” appearing at the top of the fully redacted pages.
The slideshow was dated Nov. 23, 2020, about three months after Wilkinson was tapped by the NFL to lead a probe into hostile workplace allegations reported by the Washington Post. Wilkinson was originally hired by the Commanders to investigate harassment claims before the NFL stepped in and had Wilkinson lead the probe on the league’s behalf.
It appears the shadow investigation went forward even after the team was told to stop its investigative efforts by the NFL.
“I think any action that would discourage people from coming forward would be inappropriate and absolutely wrong,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at Wednesday’s Oversight Committee hearing. “In fact when we took over the investigation, we told the Washington Commanders, they were not to do any investigations [on their own].”
Debra Katz, one of the attorneys who represents more than 40 former Commanders employees, told FOS that the date of the dossier’s creation is a “significant” development.
“He testified that the [the NFL] did the right thing by taking over the investigation and telling Snyder not to conduct any investigation and to pull off the private investigators,” Katz said. “We know that the NFL was given a presentation as was Beth Wilkinson with this 100-page dossier dated November, making it clear that they never cut off. They never stopped this investigation.”
The individuals detailed with pictures in the unredacted pages that were compiled by Snyder’s lawyers included:
- Washington Post reporters Liz Clarke, Will Hobson, and Beth Reinhard.
- Former Commanders employees Emily Applegate, Megan Imbert, Rachel Engleson, and Donald Wells. Former Commanders General Manager Scot McCloughan and his wife, Jessica, were also profiled.
- Baltimore-based sports investment banker John Moag, who was tapped by the three former Commanders co-owners of the team to sell their stake in the team.
- Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent more than 40 former Commanders employees.
A message left with a Commanders spokesperson was not immediately returned.
While social media interactions and connections made up a large portion of each profile, phone records were heavily used by Snyder’s legal team. In one instance, one slide detailed that Clarke spoke with a person whose name was redacted 118 times for a total of 1,132 minutes, and the two exchanged 127 texts.
It’s not clear how Snyder’s legal team gained access to phone records, which aren’t publicly available and typically require a subpoena. An Oversight Committee memo released Wednesday stated that Snyder used filings in federal court related to a lawsuit filed against an Indian online media company over an alleged misinformation campaign “to compel phone records, emails, and other documents from former employees and other individuals in the United States.”
Katz represented one of those targeted with a federal filing to compel information to be handed over to Snyder’s legal team.
“We objected that the discovery requests were overly broad and it was an attempt to try to unmask sources of journalists,” Katz said. “Apparently, we were correct.”
Applegate’s profile included a flower receipt from July 2015 that the slide stated was sent by another then-employee whose name was redacted. On the next slide, email communication between Applegate and the same unnamed individual.