‘Simply greed’: Washington Commanders to pay $1.3M settlement in Va. season ticket lawsuit

It was no minor accounting error that kept Washington Commanders fans from getting their security deposits back for tickets to upcoming games. “It was simply greed,” said Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares.

Miyares said he applauded the new owners of the team who recognized that they “inherited these mistakes.” A group led by Josh Harris acquired the team in July 2023 from Dan Snyder, who had been the team’s owner since 1999.

Under the agreement, about $600,000 in security deposits could be returned. The team will pay another $600,000 in fines, as well as $100,000 in attorneys’ fees, Miyares said.

“So about $1.3 million settlement,” Miyares said.

In a brief statement, a team spokeswoman said, “We are pleased that this settlement has been reached resolving issues that occurred under prior ownership.”

In 2022, the team agreed to refund Maryland season-ticket holders and pay a $250,000 fee after authorities there brought a similar lawsuit. In D.C., the team agreed to refund $200,000 to fans who paid security deposits, in addition to paying $425,000 to resolve allegations related to the deposits.

It was a scheme that Miyares said dated back to the mid-1990s. The team would offer customers discounted prices for seats to games if they signed a multiyear contract and paid a security deposit. Those security deposits, which could range into the thousands of dollars, were supposed to be returned or refunded when the contract ended, but that did not happen, prosecutors said.

At one point in 2016, the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Reform said the team retained up to $5 million from 2,000 season-ticket holders, The Associated Press reported.

Protecting the Virginia customer

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform sent a letter to Miyares’ office in April 2022 about the possible irregularities involving the Washington Commanders and season-ticket holders.

“We interviewed witnesses and individuals involved and began discussions and negotiations with the team,” Miyares said.

Miyares said the previous ownership simply “kept the money on their books for their balance sheet,” which violates a variety of different provisions in the Virginia Consumer Protection Act.

The team also did not return the money when it could not track the person or if the person has moved or has died.

“What happens is you return that money to the state. There is an unclaimed property fund that’s with the Virginia Department of Treasury,” Miyares said. “You’re supposed to return to the state, that then gives another window of time for the people that are owed the money to be able to claim the money.” Miyares said that never happened.

Miyares said one of his office’s most important roles is “protecting Virginia consumers from bad corporate actors.”

“I don’t care whether it’s the Commanders; I don’t care whether it’s a paint shop. If you start violating our consumer protection laws and treating your customers just as a number instead of human beings, that’s when you’re going to get in trouble,” Miyares said.

Miyares said the process to refund fans has already begun.

The team’s financial practices under its previous owners came to light amid an investigation by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on the team’s workplace culture.

The committee found evidence of deceptive business practice over the span of more than a decade, including withholding ticket revenue from visiting teams and refundable deposits from fans, The Associated Press reported.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report. 

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Abigail Constantino

Abigail Constantino started her journalism career writing for a local newspaper in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is a graduate of American University and The George Washington University.

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