Washington investigation triggers legal skirmish over confidential settlement

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In Carolina, previously-unknown confidential settlements brought down team founder Jerry Richardson. In Washington, at least one confidential settlement agreement may emerge as a result of the broad investigation regarding workplace misconduct.

According to the Washington Post, former Washington general counsel David P. Donovan has sued attorney Beth Wilkinson, the lawyer who is handling an investigation that was started by the team but later commandeered by the league.

Per the Post, an emergency motion filed Monday indicated that Washington owner Daniel Snyder plans to intervene in the litigation.

The confidential settlement agreement was finalized a decade ago. Court records, per the Post, reveal that Wilkinson has encountered resistance from Donovan in the effort to gather evidence regarding the circumstances surrounding the settlement.

Donovan sued Wilkinson on November 9, arguing that removing the confidential nature of the documents would “undermine public confidence in the enforceability of confidential agreements between private parties.” Donovan’s effort was denied on November 17, and he attempted to drop the suit on November 23.

Wilkinson resisted, asking the court to determine the documents from the situation that can be unsealed “so the public can understand what [Donovan] is trying to accomplish through this lawsuit and how it relates to the investigation writ-large.”

That position from Wilkinson implies that she hopes to eventually make any findings regarding the confidential settlement public.

Donovan filed Monday’s motion, explaining that Snyder and the franchise plan to intervene in the litigation with the intention of “asserting privilege and privacy or related interests over information that is under seal.”

If accurate, this points to a potential battle between Wilkinson/the NFL and Snyder, whose worst nightmare regarding his supposedly independent lawyer may be coming true: She’s actually operating with independence.

It’s too early to know whether and to what extent information regarding the agreement could affect Snyder’s position as majority owner of the franchise. However, allegations are made confidential for a reason, and it’s usually to protect not the person making the allegations but the person against whom they are made.

If the allegations create concern regarding Snyder’s ongoing status as owner of the franchise, that’s quite possibly the beginning, not the end. Richardson decided to go quietly; Snyder has shown every inclination to do anything and everything to fight anyone and everyone who threatens his broader plan to eventually turn the team over to his children.

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