In NFL’s Washington office probe, lawyer fights to maintain settlement confidential

In NFL’s Washington workplace probe, lawyer fights to keep agreement confidential

The complainant’s name in the settlement, that person’s work, and the nature of the allegations have not been made public, but the available records show that attorney Beth Wilkinson, who leads the league’s investigation into the team’s workplace, has encountered opposition from the former team Lawyer.

David P. Donovan, who served as the team’s general counsel from 2005 to 2011, sued Wilkinson last month in federal court in Virginia for preventing her from disclosing information about a confidential 2009 agreement in which Donovan is a party. In the November 9 lawsuit, Donovan attempted to keep all court records, including any public announcement of the lawsuit itself, private, arguing that disclosure of the trial would “undermine public confidence in the enforceability of confidential agreements between private parties” . This request was denied on November 17th.

Donovan dropped the lawsuit on November 23, but Wilkinson’s attorneys asked the court to decide which documents could be unsealed in the case “so the public can understand what [Donovan] tried to get through this lawsuit and how it relates to the capitalized investigation. “

Court records on what information should be cut from public records refer to the agreement as a “settlement” and refer to characterizing the “nature of the misconduct”.

After Wilkinson filed some redacted documents with the court, Donovan filed an urgency motion Monday to delay these disclosures. Snyder and the team intend to intervene in the case to “pursue privileges and privacy or related interests in relation to information under lock and key.” US Judge Ivan Davis granted the motion on Monday afternoon.

Snyder has pledged to collaborate with the investigation and release current and former employees from nondisclosure agreements in order to speak to investigators.

Donovan declined to comment. Wilkinson and her lawyers also did not respond to requests for comment. Washington Football Team spokeswoman Julie A. Jensen did not respond to requests for comment. Snyder did not respond to requests for comment sent to a public relations representative and a lawyer he hired. The NFL also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

The existence of the 2009 settlement may never have been made public had Donovan not filed a restraining order against Wilkinson of the eastern district of Virginia in Alexandria. Wilkinson filed sealed affidavits in support of their motions from three people, including Lisa Friel, the NFL’s special investigative adviser. Friel did not respond to a request for comment.

“Just because parties don’t like allegations doesn’t mean those allegations are sealable,” Davis told Donovan’s attorneys at a November 20 hearing. This emerges from a record requested by the Washington Post after reported on the dispute. “The fact that these details can come out shouldn’t be something your client should file a federal lawsuit with.”

Wilkinson was due to interview Snyder on November 18th, court records show.

In his court records, Donovan describes himself as a “party” to the settlement, although it is unclear whether Donovan simply negotiated the deal or was otherwise involved.

Donovan, who also served as the team’s chief operating officer for three years, was a partner in the WilmerHale law firm for more than 25 years until he retired in 2018.

Davis came up with a complex set of rules describing which court documents are published and which words in those documents are edited. In accordance with its November 25 decision, the terms “settlement” and “settlement agreement”, the name of the “complainant”, the title of that person and “references to the matter giving rise to allegations” should be redacted. Other requests to block information from the public were denied.

Wilkinson was hired by Snyder to conduct an “independent” investigation after The Post released a report in July of 15 women alleging that they were sexually molested while working for the team. A month later, another 25 women made similar claims in another Post report that also described lewd videos the team produced from footage of cheerleading calendar shoots in 2008 and 2010.

Snyder is committed to addressing issues in his team’s work culture.

The League took control of Wilkinson’s probe in August. The Post reported that some former team employees said they were approached by private investigators who intermittently failed to identify themselves or for whom they worked. Joe Tacopina, an attorney representing Snyder, said in August that the private investigation activities were related to Snyder’s libel suit against an India-based news company – Media, Entertainment, Arts, WorldWide – not to Wilkinson’s investigation.

Mark Maske and Alice Crites contributed to this report.