Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder hires firm to investigate allegations of sexual harassment

The Washington Commanders have hired an independent investigative team to look into Tiffani Johnston's allegations of sexual harassment against team owner Dan Snyder.

The Commanders announced Wednesday that Pallas Global Group LLC, led by former Assistant United States Attorneys Bonnie Jonas and Tiffany Moller, will manage the investigation.

During a congressional roundtable Thursday, Johnston accused Snyder of touching her without her consent at a work dinner about 13 years ago. Snyder issued a statement denying her allegations.

Pallas Global Group also has retained Debra Wong Yang to lead the investigation. Yang is a partner at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, LLP in Los Angeles and previously served as the firm's Chair of the White Collar Defense and Investigations Practice Group.

The Commanders said Yang will "report her findings to Pallas Global Group, and those findings will be released to the public" at the conclusion of the investigation.

"The Team is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of Ms. Johnston's allegation, and pledges full cooperation with the investigation," the Commanders said in a statement.

Lisa Banks and Debra Katz, the attorneys who represent Johnston and over 40 other former team employees, said in a statement Wednesday that Johnston "will not participate in this sham of an investigation, and the public will not be duped into believing that this is anything other than Dan Snyder trying to whitewash his own misconduct."

Johnston, a former marketing and events coordinator for the team, told the House Committee for Oversight and Reform that she was "strategically" placed next to Snyder at a work dinner "not to discuss business, but to allow him, Dan Snyder, to place his hand on my thigh under the table."

Johnston also said Snyder "aggressively pushed me toward his limo with his hand on my lower back, encouraging me to ride with him to my car" later that night, after the dinner. She said the "only reason Dan Snyder removed his hand from my back and stopped pushing me toward his limo was because his attorney intervened and said, 'Dan, Dan, this is a bad idea. A very bad idea, Dan.'"

Johnston said the incident occurred either in 2005 or 2006 at the Oceanaire restaurant in downtown Washington. A letter from Jason Friedman, another former employee, was presented at the roundtable, stating he had witnessed Snyder trying to steer Johnston into the limo.

"The idea that Dan Snyder has hired a team to investigate his own actions is utterly absurd," Banks and Katz said in their statement. "This is a desperate public relations stunt, clearly designed to absolve him of wrongdoing. Our client, Tiffani Johnston, already testified credibly to Congress about her experience of being sexually harassed by Mr. Snyder. Her powerful testimony was corroborated by an eyewitness who submitted a statement to Congress. If there is to be any investigation of Ms. Johnston's allegations, it should be conducted by Beth Wilkinson and her team, who have spent the better part of the last year investigating the actions of Mr. Snyder and his top lieutenants. The fact is that Mr. Snyder has gone to great lengths to conceal the truth and his retention of this team is just his latest effort to paint a false picture of his behavior.

"If, as Mr. Snyder claims today, he genuinely wanted the truth about his actions to emerge, he would have embraced the public release of Ms. Wilkinson's findings. Instead, he worked with the NFL to block the release of the Wilkinson report. And now, he has handpicked new investigators to do what apparently the Wilkinson report did not do -- sugarcoat his own actions. Ms. Johnston will not participate in this sham of an investigation, and the public will not be duped into believing that this is anything other than Dan Snyder trying to whitewash his own misconduct."

Johnston was one of five women who presented stories of alleged sexual harassment and discrimination to the congressional committee, which has been investigating the team since last fall.

The committee released documents the following morning announcing that the NFL may not be able to publicly release the findings of its own internal investigation of the Commanders franchise without the explicit permission of Snyder. The committee also released a separate document showing that the team requested a "written investigation" from Beth Wilkinson's law firm when she was hired to conduct an internal investigation.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has previously contended that the league cannot release the internal investigation because Wilkinson presented her findings orally. The NFL and the Commanders both denied the committee's assertions, saying they have been forthcoming with documents related to the investigation that did not run against attorney-client privilege.

ESPN's Tisha Thompson and John Keim contributed to this report.