Snopes Looks Back on Eventful Year, Prepares for Upcoming Trial

Our fact-checking team has been energized by court victories, including penalties ordered against our opponents.

  • Published
Text, Symbol, Number

Dear Readers,

As we close out 2021, we’re grateful.

Grateful for our 26th year of fact-checking (see highlights in our comprehensive, year-end recap). Grateful for a series of recent wins in our ongoing court battle. And grateful for your support, which makes all of this possible.

Our epic court battle with a former tech vendor to Snopes Media Group has been inching through a lengthy court process that was further delayed by the pandemic. This past year, though, Snopes and its CEO David Mikkelson have racked up victories against our adversaries – vendor Proper Media and its former owners, Christopher Richmond, Drew Schoentrup, and Tyler Dunn.

That’s why we are feeling confident as we prepare for the main trial in early 2022.

Biggest win in 2021? A federal judge agreed that Snopes has been a target of harassment through the courts. Not only that, the judge imposed sanctions on our adversary and his attorney for filing a “frivolous” lawsuit against two of Snopes Media Group’s directors.

As we have repeatedly explained, this litigation is NOT a normal business dispute. It’s bullying – using the courts as a weapon by filing lawsuits intended to harass, intimidate, and financially drain Snopes, which Mikkelson founded in 1994. The plaintiffs went so far as to acquire shares of Snopes – and then sued in their capacity as shareholders.

There have been many lawsuits, in various courts. While the main case has not yet gone to trial – that’s coming up next – it should be evident to anyone paying attention that we are winning in all of the related cases.

It was very encouraging that this year, our adversaries were ordered to reimburse Snopes and Mikkelson for a portion of these expenses. It’s important to note that we have not received a penny yet, and appeals are possible – but in theory, these court-ordered reimbursements would total over $500,000 so far. That’s huge!

2021 Major Milestones in the Snopes Litigation

  • April 2, 2021: A California Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Mikkelson in a case regarding the division of shares of Snopes Media Group. The litigant in this case, Dunn, unsuccessfully claimed in the lawsuit that his shares should be merged with those of other owners into one single share equaling 50% of Snopes. Theoretically, this would have allowed the principal owners of Proper Media to deadlock the company and gain control of Snopes. The judge stated that Dunn was “attempting to circumvent” a prior court ruling that had already decided the matter.
  • June 4, 2021: A California Court of Appeal ruled in favor of Mikkelson and affirmed a prior anti-SLAPP ruling against Richmond and other plaintiffs who had sought, unsuccessfully, to block Snopes from advancing legal fees to Mikkelson and others. The judge agreed with the lower court that Snopes has a right to advance legal fees to its agents in litigation related to the company.
  • Sept. 29, 2021: A U.S. District Court judge stated in an order that litigant Richmond and his attorney, Matthew Hrutkay, deliberately filed a “frivolous” lawsuit to “harass” Snopes and its agents. The lawsuit sought to raise the advancement of legal fees again, which had already been decided in state court. The judge said that Richmond and Hrutkay must face consequences – “sanctions” – for filing a lawsuit that essentially wasted everyone’s time and money. Snopes and Mikkelson are seeking an award of $269,674 in reimbursement for legal fees in this case.
  • Nov. 22, 2021: A California Superior Court judge ruled that Mikkelson’s ex-wife must reimburse him $175,000 in legal fees for a lawsuit triggered by a dispute over stock ownership. He had successfully challenged her decision to improperly sell an interest in Snopes to the company’s legal adversaries.
  • Dec. 7, 2021: A California Superior Court judge ruled that Richmond and Schoentrup must reimburse Snopes and Mikkelson a total of $233,500 for their legal fees in an action stemming from unsuccessful attempts by Schoentrup and Richmond to press defamation claims against Mikkelson and Snopes, and to block Snopes from advancing legal fees to its agents.

It’s no secret that this never-ending litigation has been a huge strain on our small-but-mighty team. We are more than ready to finally meet our adversaries in court and look forward to the main trial’s finally taking place next year.

We didn’t let any of this legal drama slow us down, though. If you read one end-of-year recap, make it “2021 in Review: Highlights From,” where you can find a list of our website’s top search terms, including “Ivermectin,” “Biden” and “COVID”; browse a list of our most read news stories; and revisit the year’s best investigative reporting by the incredible team of journalists at Snopes.

Encouraged by our momentum, we recently launched a campaign to fund our legal expenses for the upcoming trial. Will you join forces with us and the 44,400 people who have donated to Snopes’ legal defense and operations fund? Visit our Save Our Snopes page to learn how you can help. Thank you for keeping us in the fight!

Truthfully yours,

Team Snopes