In the July 23, 2020 edition of The Washington Post, national sports reporter Adam Kilgore gets Edward Kang’s take on how can the Washington NFL team’s internal review be independent? Legal experts weigh in..
An inherent question looms over the Washington NFL team’s investigation of its workplace culture: If owner Daniel Snyder is paying the law firm tasked with inspecting his franchise, how can the ensuing report be considered independent, as Snyder insists it will be?
The article centers on Snyder’s hiring of D.C. attorney Beth Wilkinson to conduct an internal review of the team’s culture, in the aftermath of a Post report about 15 women who alleged sexual harassment while working for the franchise.
Kang, managing member of Kang Haggerty & Fetbroyt in Philadelphia, is well regarded in conducting independent investigations. He recently authored commentaries in his civil litigation column in The Legal Intelligencer on When to Hire Outside Lawyers to Conduct an Internal Investigation: Revisited, which focused on Comcast and Arjuna Capital. In When to Hire Outside Lawyers to Conduct an Internal Investigation, he highlights that the call for an internal investigation, not unique in the wake of the #MeToo movement, is not simply confined to the media and entertainment industries.
Beth Wilkinson started her career in the Army and prosecuted Timothy McVeigh for the government after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. She has represented Philip Morris, Bayer, and recently, Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearing and four of Hillary Clinton’s aides in the email controversy.
While quotes in the article from the litigation department chair of Venable LLP and a partner at Baker Botts focus on Wilkinson’s reputation and assurance of the investigation not being a “whitewash,” Kang comments on the issue of maintaining independence as an auditor when you know who is paying you. He references the importance of hiring a law firm that is truly independent, and has not previously worked for the corporation. While Wilkinson had never represented the Washington NFL team previously, her firm did represent the league in an antitrust suit over its NFL Sunday Ticket package, and while with Paul Weiss, was part of a defense team in a concussion lawsuit.