The NFL has hired former Securities and Exchange Commission chair Mary Jo White to investigate an allegation that Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder sexually harassed a team employee more than a decade ago.
White will detail her findings in a written report, which will be released to the public because the allegation against Snyder was made in a public forum, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said Friday.
Following the probe, McCarthy said Commissioner Roger Goodell will determine “any appropriate action” against Snyder, who last year was fined $10 million after a previous investigation into widespread sexual harassment and mistreatment of women by high-ranking team employees. Snyder also temporarily ceded day-to-day operations of the franchise to his wife, Tanya.
The findings of that investigation have been kept from the public, and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform has been pressing the league to hand over documents from the probe. Goodell has said the investigation was kept under wraps to protect the anonymity of team employees who spoke to attorney Beth Wilkinson.
During a committee roundtable earlier this month, former Washington employee Tiffani Johnston told Congress that Snyder groped her thigh at a team dinner and pushed her toward his limousine with his hand on her lower back. Johnston worked for the team in the 2000s as a cheerleader and marketing manager. Snyder denied Johnston's allegations, calling them “outright lies.”
The team, which was renamed as the Commanders this month, then announced it had hired investigators to look into Johnston's allegations, prompting the league to step in and say it would oversee the probe. Goodell said at his Super Bowl news conference that a team could not investigate itself. He also said NFL owners had the authority to remove a fellow owner from the league, although it was not clear what if any misconduct by Snyder would prompt the owners to act.
Attorneys Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, who represent Johnston, said they would have preferred for Wilkinson to conduct the new investigation, saying the NFL’s hiring of an investigator unfamiliar with the prior probe “makes no sense at all.” They said they would discuss with Johnston whether she wanted to participate.
In addition to her stint as SEC chair under President Barack Obama, White is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. She is now a partner with the law firm Debevoise & Plimpton, based in New York.
White previously conducted an NFL investigation into allegations against former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.
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