Snyder claims travel and religion prevent testimony as the clock runs out

Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder’s showdown with Congress is intensifying. With a potential lawsuit over a committee’s request that he testify, Snyder and his legal team are making moves — both figuratively and literally — that could sidestep Congress’s authority until political changes make the controversy moot.

Last Thursday, Snyder’s attorney, Karen Patton Seymour, sent one paper House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, complaining that discussions with her staff “have not been fruitful.” Seymour, a partner at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York, thought the committee doesn’t even “respect it enough[s]”Snyder’s right to substantially fair treatment” doesn’t even consider the logistical challenges presented by her travel schedule and Snyder’s religious observance of the one-year anniversary of the death of his mother, Arlette Snyder.

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Snyder declined to appear voluntarily at a June 22 committee hearing — bluntly titled “Handling Toxic Workplaces: Examining the NFL’s Handling of Workplace Misconduct in the Washington Commanders”—in which Democratic members accused league commissioner Roger Goodell of failing to hold Snyder accountable. Republican members, in contrast, portrayed the hearing as a waste of committee time and taxpayer dollars. Maloney insisted that Snyder’s rejection of “Sen[t] a clear signal that he is more concerned with protecting himself than clearing himself of the American public.” Snyder, who was in France, signaled that he did not believe he would receive a fair shake and that his appearance wanted was for political theater.

After the hearing, the committee attempted to issue a subpoena that would compel Snyder’s deposition on June 30. Seymour told the committee neither she nor Snyder were available on that date. Seymour was traveling in Europe “on unrelated business matters” and Snyder went to Israel to “spend most of July engaged in long-planned events to mark the first Yahrzeit, or death anniversary of his mother”. Seymour added that “observing Yahrzeit is a sacred obligation in Judaism,” that Snyder and his family will also “dedicate a Torah scroll” in Mrs. Snyder’s honor, and that the Snyder family will remain in Israel until August as part of “These religious observances.”

Seymour, however, promises that her client can be made available for a voluntary (uncalled) Zoom appearance, provided it takes place on July 28 or 29 and her “due process concerns” are resolved. She said she would travel to Israel to join Snyder. This is an important point. If the committee turns to the courts to require Snyder to testify, Snyder can more convincingly argue that he negotiated with the committee in good faith by showing that he was offered to appear. In other words, Seymour is building a record of facts that may prove useful in potential legal proceedings.

However, July 28 and 29 are the last days of the House session before the August recess. The House won’t resume committee work until Sept. 6 and legislative work until Sept. 13, just two months before the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Seymour says the committee ignored her offer and instead requested that Snyder appear for a deposition on July 6 or 8. Seymour refused this request because those days “conflicted with my previous work commitments”. In a follow-up call, Seymour says committee staff “asked not only for details of my specific business commitments” but “the exact schedule of [Snyder-related] commemorative events and religious observances.”

Seymour is an extraordinary figure in the legal community. She served as chief of the U.S. Attorney’s general crimes unit during the 1990s and chief of the criminal division in the Southern District of New York from 2002 to 2004. The former federal prosecutor is an expert in corporate governance and has recently worked to Goldman Sachs as general counsel.

The committee says it will continue to negotiate with Seymour, while highlighting what it calls “Snyder’s continued refusal to allow his attorney to agree to serve a subpoena.”

The committee seems unconvinced by the merits of Snyder’s unavailability. It is unclear, for example, why Seymour—and only she—could serve as Snyder’s counsel for his testimony. Consistently ranked among the nation’s top 10 most prestigious law firms, Sullivan & Cromwell has a roster of more than 875 attorneys. It is common when an attorney is not available to have another attorney cover him or her. The ongoing, multi-week status of Snyder’s “religious acts” also warrants scrutiny. Yahrzeit is usually described as a one-day commemoration that includes the lighting of a memorial candle or lamp. Why Snyder could appear by Zoom on two days in late July — from Israel or elsewhere — but not on other days remains unclear. He likely did not get the benefit of the committee’s doubt, especially given the committee’s earlier complaints about the willingness of Snyder and his team to cooperate.

If the committee concludes that Snyder is simply evading his obligation, it could ask a federal court to declare that Snyder must comply with a subpoena. The accompanying legal process, however, could take months and potentially extend beyond January 3, when the 118th Congress will begin. Republicans are expected to win the House majority, which means the Oversight Committee will have a new chairman. Given the sentiment expressed by Republican members, it seems unlikely that the next committee will devote significant energy to Snyder.

Time, or the lack of it, is an important factor in other ways. Due to redistricting, Maloney is running for re-election against another veteran and well-known member of Congress, Jerry Nadler. A recent poll in the new area showed a majority of voters were undecided. Several other committee members are in the throes of competing races that may require them to spend more time at home.

Meanwhile, Snyder’s hold on the Commanders doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy. Goodell told the committee Snyder has already been punished for the workplace scandal, with his team fined $10 million and his wife, Commanders co-CEO Tanya Snyder, attending league and owner meetings Snyder has taken. part before. The NFL has never ended up being owned by a majority owner. Doing so would require, among other steps, a three-quarters vote of the other 31 ownership groups.

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