Speed Reads

Arizona Audit Aftermath

Cyber Ninjas says it's 'shutting down' after Arizona judge fines it $50,000 a day in audit records fight

Cyber Ninjas, the Florida firm hired by Arizona Senate Republicans to conduct a partisan review of Maricopa County's 2020 ballots, said Thursday evening that it is not longer in business. "Cyber Ninjas is shutting down," company representative Rod Thompson told NBC News. "All employees have been let go," including CEO Doug Logan. 

But an Arizona judge who had just fined it $50,000 a day for noncompliance with an August order to turn over audit-related records to The Arizona Republic, wasn't having it

"The court is not going to accept the assertion that Cyber Ninjas is an empty shell and that no one is responsible for seeing that it complies," Maricopa Superior Court Judge Hannah told Cyber Ninjas lawyer Jack Wilenchik. He questioned the company's insolvency, citing millions in donations, and suggested it needn't cost much to comply with the records request. Hannah said the fines would start to accrue Friday, and may be applied to individuals in the company.

"Wilenchik has asked to quit as the Cyber Ninjas lawyer because he hasn't been paid, but Hannah refused to approve until new local attorneys are in place to represent the firm," The Associated Press reports.

The Republic had requested $1,000 a day in sanctions, but Hannah called that "grossly insufficient" to compel Cyber Ninja's compliance. "It is lucidly clear on this record that Cyber Ninjas has disregarded that order," he said in his ruling. 

State Senate President Karen Fann (R) hired Cyber Ninjas to conduct what she called a "forensic audit" of Maricopa's ballots, part of a broader effort by allies of former President Donald Trump to find evidence for his claim the election was stolen. Cyber Ninja, which had no election review experience, eventually found that Trump lost the county, and Arizona, to President Biden by more votes than originally counted. 

Cyber Ninja's final report also found several problems with how the election was conducted. On Wednesday, Maricopa County released its own report rebutting almost all the claims in Cyber Ninja's report. The county's three-month investigation did find that 87 of the 53,304 ballots flagged as questionable in the Senate review were either mistakenly double-counted or potentially cast illegally. In a four-hour hearing on Wednesday, county election officials ran through Cyber Ninja's errors and misleading and accurate claims, attributing them to poor analysis or fundamental misunderstandings of how elections are run.