Lawyers for Elon Musk dialed upped the drama in Delaware Chancery Court today, insisting nothing less than “justice and truth” requires a three-week extension to the planned start date of a trial over whether the billionaire Tesla founder must honor his agreement to buy the social media platform.
Proceedings are currently set for October 17.
Musk inked the $44 billion deal in April and unilaterally terminated it in July, prompting Twitter’s lawsuit. His case didn’t look superb but appeared to get a shot of adrenaline on news last month that Twitter’s former/fired head of security Peiter Zatko had filed a whistleblower complaint alleging lax cybersecurity and that the company uses spam accounts to boost user data. The latter claim overlaps in part with Musk’s accusations that Twitter lies about the number of fake accounts on its platform. The Musk camp had asked to amended its countersuit to reflect the whistleblower claims, and for a trial delay to explore them.
“We are asking for a few weeks to get to the truth. Doesn’t justice demand a few weeks to look into this?” said Andrew Rossman, a Musk attorney.
Twitter had initially argued and the judge agreed that a speedy trial was necessary to protect Twitter’s business from extended limbo. Its shareholders are set to vote on the deal next week.
Twitter lawyer William Savitt called Zatko a “disgruntled employee” who “never said a word about spam or bots until he started supporting Mr. Musk.”
“Twitter is prepared to try all defendant’s claims, no matter how unsupported or not viable. But we ask, we plead, for the prompt justice necessary. Whatever the result, this case can and should be brought to trial in October,” he said.
Twitter says Zatko’s complaints during and after his tenure were “thoroughly investigated” and found to be without merit. The company said it had no knowledge of the whistleblower complaint (filed in July) until it was reported in the press. Zatko is scheduled to testify before Congress this month.
Musk “brought this on himself,” said Savitt. Twiter “was just going about its business” when “Mr. Musk shows up and decides Twitter would make an entertaining plaything.” When the stock market fell, Musk simply changed his mind and invented excuses to drop out, Twitter argues He accused the Musk camp of attacking and delaying with “another round of impossible to verify allegations.”
“What they want is to use this court as a fishing expedition,” the attorney said.
The two sides also argued at length at the three and a half-hour hearing over the speed, scope and good faith of the discovery process by the other. And, something that may feature in future trials, a clash over how to handle Slack channels in discovery – should be handed over in a complete stream, which may be too much of a dump, or treated like text messages and combed through one by one, which is extremely time consuming.
The judge didn’t rule today on the trial date or other motions.
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