Washington Commanders to pay $500K+ in season-ticket lawsuit

The Washington Commanders settled a lawsuit filed by the District of Columbia attorney general's office, requiring them to pay more than half a million dollars for how they handled season-ticket security deposits in the past.

Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb announced that the franchise must pay $200,000 to impacted residents and another $425,000 to the district. The suit contended that the team "systematically failed to return ticket holders' deposits and intentionally created barriers for fans to get refunds in violation of District law."

According to the settlement, the team continues to deny the district's allegations and claims.

But in a statement issued Monday, a Commanders spokesperson said, "We have not accepted security deposits or seat licenses in more than a decade and have been actively working to return any remaining deposits since 2014. We are pleased to have reached an agreement on the matter with the D.C. Attorney General and will work with the office to fulfill our obligations to our fans."

A second lawsuit filed in November by the attorney general's office against the team, owner Dan Snyder, the NFL and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell remains ongoing.

That suit alleges collusion to "deceive District residents about an investigation into, and commitment to transparently address, toxic workplace culture and allegations of sexual assault."

Snyder put the Commanders up for sale in November. There have been at least two official bids of $6 billion, one from a group led by Josh Harris and another by Steve Apostolopoulos. At least three groups have toured the team's facilities.

Attorney Mary Jo White's investigation into the Commanders on behalf of the NFL remains ongoing. The Virginia attorney general's office continues its nearly yearlong look into allegations of financial improprieties by the team.

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney's office in the Eastern District of Virginia has continued to investigate allegations of financial improprieties as well.

According to the settlement with the district, the Commanders must attempt to notify affected fans by letter, phone call and email -- after conducting a public records search for the most recent contact information. They also must prominently disclose the refund process on their website and provide the attorney general's office with regular updates "documenting their progress."

The $425,000 settlement will be paid to the district for costs "associated with the investigation" as well as contributions to the city's litigation support fund.

"Rather than being transparent and upfront in their ticket sale practices, the Commanders unlawfully took advantage of their fan base, holding on to security deposits instead of returning them," Schwalb said in a news release announcing the settlement. "Under this settlement agreement, our office will maintain strict oversight over the Commanders to ensure all necessary steps are taken to reimburse fans for the refunds they are entitled to. Our office takes seriously the obligation to enforce DC consumer protection laws by holding accountable anyone that tries to exploit District consumers."

The suit, filed in the civil division of the D.C. Superior Court, said the team had violated the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act. The complaint alleged that the franchise wrongly withheld security deposits that should have been automatically repaid and that it improperly used those deposits for its own purposes. The suit claimed the team made it difficult for fans to receive their security deposit refunds.

The attorney general's office alleged that, as of March 2022, the team still owed district residents $200,000.

The situation came to light as part of the investigation into the team's workplace culture by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. A former longtime employee who worked in the ticket office, Jason Friedman, told the committee about various financial practices -- practices the team strongly denied.

Friedman was a vice president of sales and customer service who was fired in October 2020 after 24 years with the franchise.

The House committee then forwarded the information to the Federal Trade Commission as well as the attorney generals in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.