WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today announced that Pro-Football Inc., the corporation which owns the Washington Commanders, will return over $200,000 to impacted residents and pay $425,000 to the District to resolve allegations that the team systematically failed to return ticket holders’ deposits and intentionally created barriers for fans to get refunds in violation of District law.
“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,” said AG Schwalb. “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 Office of the Attorney General (OAG) initiated an investigation into the Commanders’ handling of security deposits following a referral from the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform. In April 2022, the Committee sent a letter to various entities, sharing evidence of the Commanders’ concerning business practices.
OAG’s investigation confirmed that the now-Commanders, for many years, engaged in a business practice of offering multi-year contracts for premium game tickets. To secure these contracts, fans were required to pay a substantial security deposit, which the team represented would be returned within 30 days of the contract’s expiration. However, in reality, the team deceptively kept many of these security deposits for years after fans’ contracts expired, improperly using the security deposits for its own purposes. The team, in addition to the requirements stated in the initial contracts, unfairly and deceptively imposed further cumbersome requirements, which complicated the process for fans to reclaim their deposits. Despite being alerted in 2009 by a Commanders’ employee that these practices violated the contracts’ terms, the team persisted in enforcing these extra obligations on consumers. As a result of these deceptive practices, the team illegally withheld hundreds of thousands of dollars from District residents.
As of March 2022, the Commanders still held over $200,000 in unreturned security deposits paid by District consumers. The Commanders’ misrepresentations regarding the return process for security deposits and omissions of details regarding the requirements for consumers to reclaim their deposits violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act (CPPA).
As a result of OAG’s investigation and action, the Commanders must:
- Return all outstanding security deposits (likely more than $200,000) to affected District residents and follow strict outreach protocols, determined by OAG, to ensure every effort is made to return their money.
- Specifically, the Commanders must:
- Conduct a public records search for the most recent contact information for impacted fans and attempt to notify them by letter, phone call, and email;
- Prominently disclose the refund process on their website; and
- Provide OAG with regular reports documenting their progress in returning the money to fans.
- Specifically, the Commanders must:
- Pay $425,000 to the District for restitution, attorneys’ fees, costs associated with the investigation, and contributions to the District’s litigation support fund;
The full settlement agreement is available here.
This investigation, lawsuit, and settlement is separate from OAG’s ongoing lawsuit against the Commanders, team owner Dan Snyder, the NFL, and Commissioner Roger Goodell for allegedly colluding to deceive District residents about an investigation into, and commitment to transparently address, toxic workplace culture and allegations of sexual assault.
This matter was handled by Office of Consumer Protection Director Adam R. Teitelbaum, and Assistant Attorneys General Spencer Scoville and Nicole Hill.