NFL tabs 'Bountygate' investigator to lead probe into Jerry Richardson allegations

NFL tabs 'Bountygate' investigator to lead probe into Jerry Richardson allegations
Jerry Richardson (Credit: David T. Foster ||| | The Charlotte Observer)

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joseph Person/The Charlotte Observer) - An independent investigator who played a prominent role in a couple of high-profile NFL investigations is leading the probe of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson.

Mary Jo White has been hired by the league to look into allegations of sexual and racial misconduct by Richardson, who announced in December he would sell the team at the conclusion of the season.

White led the NFL's internal investigation of the New Orleans Saints' "Bountygate" scandal and, more recently, consulted for the league during its investigation of Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced White's hiring in the Richardson investigation Wednesday during his annual press conference during Super Bowl week.

"She has begun that process. She will do her work. The Panthers have given us full cooperation, given her full cooperation," Goodell said. "And when that process is concluded, then we'll report at that point and time."

At least four former Panthers employees received "significant" financial settlements following inappropriate workplace comments and conduct by Richardson, Sports Illustrated reported in December.

According to SI, Richardson's accusers described a similar pattern they said created a hostile work environment.

The news outlet reported the conduct included comments about female employees' appearance on "Jeans Day" at Bank of America Stadium, notes accompanied by cash to use for massages or dresses and even requests by Richardson asking them if he could personally shave their legs.

Richardson also is alleged to have directed a racial slur at an African-American scout, who left the team last year.

The Panthers initially announced they would conduct their own investigation, led by Erskine Bowles, one of the team's minority owners. But the league moved quickly to take over the investigation, but had not announced who would lead until Wednesday.

White is a big name in Wall Street legal and regulatory circles.

After serving as chair of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission from April 2013 to January 2017, she returned to the law firm of Debevoise & Plimpton, where she is now senior chair.

Before the SEC post, she served as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York for nearly nine years before going into private practice at Debevoise & Plimpton.

One of her previous clients was former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis when he was sued by the New York Attorney General over the bank's Merrill Lynch acquisition.

Reporter Rick Rothacker contributed to this article.