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Business

Twitter’s lawyers say Elon Musk wanted out of the deal because of “World War III,” not robots




The whistleblower complaint from Twitter’s former security chief is already complicating the company’s legal battle with Elon Musk. Lawyers representing Musk and Twitter met in court Tuesday for a hearing that will determine whether the allegations made by Pieter “Mudge” Zatko can be added to Elon Musk’s lawsuit to get out of his $44 billion commitment to buy Twitter.

Notably, the hearing was one of the first times any Twitter representative has publicly addressed Zatko’s complaint. In the two weeks since Zatko went public, Twitter has mostly been on the substance of the allegations.

During the hearing, Twitter̵[ads1]7;s lawyers portrayed Zatko as a disgruntled employee, saying he had a “big ax to grind” with the company and that he was “not responsible for spam on Twitter.” They accused him of “structuring his whistleblower complaint to tie it to the merger agreement.” (Zatko’s lawyers have previously said he did not go public to “take advantage of Musk.”) Notably, Twitter’s lawyers did not address allegations that the company’s lax security practices may have caused damage or that CEO Parag Agrawal asked Zatko to lie to the company’s board.

Twitter’s lawyers suggested Musk was looking for reasons to kill the deal before Zatko’s complaint became public. At one point, Twitter’s lawyer quoted from a May 3 text message Musk sent to his banker at Morgan Stanley:

“Let’s slow down just a few days … it won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re heading into World War 3,” Twitter’s lawyer read aloud, quoting Musk. ‚ÄúThis is why Mr. Musk didn’t want to buy Twitter, this about the bots, mDAU [monetizable daily active users] and Zatko is a pretext.”

On the other hand, Musk’s lawyers touted Zatko’s credentials as a “decorated” executive who had once been offered a position as a US civil servant. They said Musk had “nothing to do” with Zatko’s whistleblower complaint and that Twitter had intentionally withheld damaging information. Whether that will be enough to win over the judge in the case is, however, unclear. In an exchange, the judge pointedly remarked on Musk’s decision to waive due diligence before agreeing to the acquisition.

“Why didn’t we discover this diligently,” Musk’s attorney said, referring to Zatko’s whistleblower complaint. “They hid it, that’s why.” “We’ll never know, will we,” the judge replied. “Because diligence didn’t happen.”

Musk’s lawyers, who pushed to delay the trial in October, ended the more than three-hour hearing by arguing that “we are not the ones causing this chaos or this delay.”

“Nobody on Twitter has all hands in meetings today because of the poop emoji from two months ago,” he said, in an apparent – and unprompted – reference to a from Musk directed at Agrawal. “The reason they’re having hands-on meetings today on Twitter is because a senior decorated executive said the company committed fraud. Is it our fault? Is it our chaos? It’s their chaos.”

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