UPDATED 21:26 EST / SEPTEMBER 07 2022

POLICY

Judge tells Elon Musk he can’t have a trial delay but he can add whistleblower claims

A Delaware court told Elon Musk earlier today that he will be facing off with Twitter Inc. on Oct. 17, despite Musk’s lawyers trying to get a delay in the proceedings in the upcoming trial.

In April, Twitter accepted Musk’s offer to acquire the company for $44 billion, but ever since then, there has been high drama. First came the commotion after Musk declared he was a “free speech absolutist.” To some, this seemed like a veiled threat or a portent of things to come, but it soon became old news when Musk then accused Twitter of cooking the numbers on the amount of spam and fake accounts on Twitter.

Musk said he wasn’t backing out of the deal for a while, but as usual with the sometimes impish Tesla Inc. chief executive, you never know what’s coming next. He did back out, and Twitter sued, stating that despite Delaware law, Musk thinks he is “free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value, and walk away.” Musk then tweeted, “Oh the irony lol.” He later countersued.

Musk’s team had wanted to go to trial sometime in mid-November, stating that it needed more time to investigate the matter of what Twitter’s former head of security Peiter Zatko had to say. Zatko, a former hacker and security expert at Google LLC and Stripe Inc., has become somewhat of a whistleblower.

In July, he lodged a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice, stating in no uncertain terms that what he had experienced at Twitter in terms of security – or lack thereof – was “stunning.”

Zatko accused Twitter of negligence and misleading its board members, users and shareholders. He added that when he talked about security issues at Twitter, he was first ignored and then fired. Twitter denied that, saying there is no truth to the allegations, and that is not why Zatko was fired. The company also said that the real reason for Musk pulling out of the deal was simply the result of the economic downturn.

“I am convinced that even four weeks’ delay would risk further harm to Twitter too great to justify,” Judge Kathaleen McCormick said today in relation to the delay request. She will allow Musk’s team to incorporate Zatko’s claims in their case, but only with “incremental” discovery and “minimal additional experts and fact witnesses.” She added, “I am reticent to say more concerning the merits of the counterclaims before they have been fully litigated.”

Photo: Brett Jordan/Unsplash

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