MyPillow CEO Vows to Appeal $5 Million Payout to ‘Digital Detective’ in Election Data Contest Dispute

‘Of course we’re going to appeal it. This guy doesn’t have a dime coming,” Mr. Lindell said.
MyPillow CEO Vows to Appeal $5 Million Payout to ‘Digital Detective’ in Election Data Contest Dispute
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell speaks in Casper, Wyo., on May 28, 2022. (Chet Strange/Getty Images)
Tom Ozimek
2/22/2024
Updated:
2/22/2024
0:00

MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell has vowed to appeal a decision by a federal judge who upheld an arbitration court ruling that said he must pay $5 million to a software engineer who claims he satisfied the conditions for winning Mr. Lindell’s “Prove Mike Wrong” challenge regarding supposed 2020 election data.

U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, said in a Feb. 21 order that courts have limited authority regarding arbitration disputes, but ordered Mr. Lindell to pay the $5 million award plus interest within 30 days anyway.

“Of course we’re going to appeal it,” Mr. Lindell told the Associated Press when asked to respond to the ruling. “This guy doesn’t have a dime coming.”

The “guy” in question is Robert Zeidman, a self-described “digital detective” and computer forensics specialist who served as an expert witness in over a hundred cases involving disputes over code ownership.

Information ‘Related to’ 2020 Election

Mr. Zeidman, a Republican who says he voted for former President Donald Trump twice, entered the $5 million “Prove Mike Wrong” contest in August 2021.

This was an open challenge to software experts and others to prove that data obtained by Mr. Lindell was, in fact, not valid “information related to the November 2020 election,” per the contest rules, as cited by the judge in his ruling.

The judge cited experts as saying that Mr. Zeidman managed to prove that Mr. Lindell’s data did not contain “packet capture data” and so could not have been directly “from the election” process itself.

Mr. Lindell has argued that the digital detective failed to meet the contest requirements because he failed to prove that the data wasn’t broadly “related to” or “about” the 2020 election, such as internet traffic data.

According to the rules of the challenge, contestants needed to prove that Mr. Lindell’s data was either not “related to the November 2020 election” or not “reflective of November 2020 election data.”

And so, according to one reading of the “Prove Mike Wrong” rules, the contest judges determined that the digital sleuth failed to meet the requirements and so was ineligible to collect the $5 million prize.

Mr. Zeidman disagreed. He lodged a complaint with an arbitration panel, arguing that the contest definition of information “related to” or “reflective of” the November 2020 election was far too broad and was “neither reasonable nor consistent with Mr. Lindell’s claims about the data.”

The arbitration panel agreed, finding that Mr. Zeidman “proved the data Lindell LLC provided, and represented reflected information from the November 2020 election, unequivocally did not reflect November 2020 data.”

Mr. Lindell filed a motion to vacate the arbitration award, while Mr. Zeidman responded with an action to confirm it, leading to the case landing before Judge Tunheim.

More Details

The judge noted in his Feb. 21 ruling that the arbitration panel’s ruling in favor of Mr. Zeidman is based on the assumption that the “Prove Mike Wrong” rules challenging contestants to prove the data was not “related to” the 2020 election are the same as directly “from” the election.

“The panel also concluded that the only possible election data would be packet capture data, so if the participant concluded it was not that type of data, they would have proven it cannot be ’related to the November 2020 election,'” the judge wrote.

Mr. Lindell disputes this determination and has vowed to appeal.

The judge himself hinted that, if he were to weigh the case on its merits rather than adjudicating whether the arbitration panel had the authority to force Mr. Lindell to pay up, he “may have reached a different outcome given an independent initial review of the information.”

However, the judge said he failed to identify evidence that the arbitration panel exceeded its authority when it ruled that Mr. Lindell must award the $5 million contest prize to Mr. Zeidman.

“Under the Court’s narrow review, it will confirm the arbitration award,” Judge Tunheim wrote.

Mr. Zeidman was not immediately available for comment.

Pressure on Lindell

Mr. Lindell, who has been a vocal backer of President Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, has faced various types of pressure for what he says are his political views.

In an October appearance on Steve Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, Mr. Lindell said he was facing multiple audits by the Internal Revenue Service.

Mr. Lindell said auditors were looking into earnings for call center contract workers, adding that the tax agency had carried out five audits targeting his company, which he said were politically motivated.

The IRS didn’t respond to a request for comment.

That same month, former Trump aide Peter Navarro wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Times that claimed Mr. Lindell and his company, MyPillow, were being targeted by “woke” corporations.

Mr. Navarro described the actions against Mr. Lindell as a “dangerous form of uncivil warfare that threatens to further divide our nation even as it desecrates the First Amendment.

Mr. Lindell said that over the years there have been several efforts to “cancel” his company.

He said it started in 2021 when Bed Bath & Beyond stated that it would stop selling MyPillow products. Other major U.S. retailers followed suit over the years, including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Costco, and Dollar General.

In 2022, the Minnesota Bank and Trust stated that it had terminated its business relationship with Mr. Lindell and described him as a “reputation risk.”