With Commanders owner Daniel Snyder apparently hoping to testify before the House Oversight Committee without a subpoena in order to hide behind nondisclosure agreements that generally benefit him, lawyers representing more than 40 former employees of the team have requested that Snyder release them from their NDAs.
Lisa J. Banks and Debra S. Katz sent a letter on Tuesday to Snyder’s lawyer, Karen Patton Seymour, responding to her July 13 letter to the Oversight Commitee.
“In your letter to Chair Maloney, you state: ‘Mr. Snyder has not invoked any NDA to limit the information provided by witnesses that have spoken to the committee,’ suggesting that witnesses were free to answer any and all questions from the Committee notwithstanding any NDA they might have signed with the Washington Commanders,” they write. “As you know, that is not true. An NDA, by definition, limits information that a witness can disclose to a third party, including the Committee, subject to the terms of the agreement.”
That’s an accurate statement. NDAs don’t have to be activated. They become effective at their inception. The only thing a party can do is release the other party of the confidentiality requirement.
“In your letter, you also specifically addressed our client, Abby Dymond Welch, stating that Mr. Snyder ‘never prevented Ms. Welch from sharing information with the Committee,'” the lawyers write. “That is also not true, and Ms. Welch was forced to approach her testimony to the Committee carefully so as not to run afoul of any legal agreements to which she was bound. While Mr. Snyder did waive NDAs for any individual who wanted to speak with investigator Beth Wilkinson (and then refused to allow the results of that investigation to be released, even to the Committee), he did not similarly agree to waive NDAs for witnesses appearing before the Committee. As such, he has effectively prevented any witness with an NDA from sharing information with the Committee without exposing themselves to serious legal risk that Mr. Snyder will pursue legal action against them.”
They ask that, if Snyder truly doesn’t intend to obstruct the ability of witnesses to speak with the Committee, he agree to waive any NDA for that purpose. “That would provide much needed comfort to my clients and many other witnesses so that they can speak freely without fear of legal jeopardy,” they write.
The letter also addresses the important distinction between NDAs included in an arm’s-length agreement reached as part of the settlement of a lawsuit and a confidentiality provision thrust onto an employee as a term of employment.
“NDAs as a condition of employment are always wrong, but . . . NDAs that are a term of a separation package can be valuable for an employee if it is desired by the employee and is truly voluntary,” they write. “NDAs that are forced upon an employee in order to allow perpetrators to continue their predatory behavior are wrong and we support legislation to ban them.”
The lawyers seek a response by July 29 as to whether Snyder “will agree to release witnesses who wish to speak to the Committee from any NDA so that he is not in a position to limit information or prevent a witness from sharing information critical to the Committee’s investigation.”
It’s unknown how many employees this covers. However, the letter makes it clear that the Committee continues to explore the Commanders situation — even if it can’t serve a subpoena on Snyder given that he remains out of the country.