Twitter’s lawyers laid into Elon Musk Tuesday with blistering, blunt language in opening arguments of the multi-billion dollar court case that will decide whether the richest man in the world will purchase one of the internet’s most influential social networks, as he agreed to months ago.
“What we are looking at is a buyer conjuring an exit plan,” Twitter’s lawyers said of the Tesla CEO’s multiform complaints. “Buyer’s remorse can be an overused phrase, your honour, but it sure looks like what we have here.”
Musk’s lawyers wasted no time in firing back, calling the company’s efforts to contravene the termination “too little, too late.”
“If Twitter wanted to be transparent with their second-largest shareholder, who is entitled to see their books and records; if they wanted to assure their would-be new-owner, they had every opportunity to do that, and they did the opposite,” Musk’s counsel said.
Twitter and Musk’s attorney are at odds over when the impending trial should take place. While Twitter’s seeking a four-day trial in September, Musk wants to stretch that out and allow for continued discovery up to around February 2023. Musk’s attorneys say their team needs more time to analyse the flood of Twitter data at their disposal and prepare for trial and accused the company of making it intentionally difficult for them to conduct searches. Twitter meanwhile says prolonged delays would harm shareholders and aren’t supported by sufficient legal precedent. Though Twitter’s preferred trial date is just two months away, the company said Musk’s team has essentially been preparing for trial ever since the company first granted Musk a so-called firehose of user data in early June.
Twitter has sued in Delaware court to force the SpaceX CEO to follow through on his agreement to buy the company. Musk agreed to purchase Twitter for $US44 ($61) billion in late April at a share price of $US54.20 ($75), far above the current price of $US39.40 ($55). He filed to terminate the agreement on July 8 after a protracted back-and-forth that at one point saw him tweet a poop emoji at the company’s CEO.
The billionaire, meanwhile, was spotted Monday by the paparazzi on a luxury yacht in Mykonos, Greece. Ari Emmanuel, the inspiration for Entourage and brother of the U.S. ambassador to Japan, was seen hosing him down with water.
In court, Musk’s lawyer accused Twitter of mucking up the proceedings to jockey for advantage.
“The New York Times got a copy of their Complaint before I did, so if the question is: who is creating chaos? Twitter is, and shouldn’t come to the Court asking for relief on that basis,” Musk’s lawyer said.
Musk has argued that the prevalence of automated accounts on the social network has soured his desire to purchase it. He reiterated the point Tuesday and accusing Twitter of “obfuscation.” He has disputed Twitter’s measurements of spam bots and repeatedly asked for more data on them, requests Twitter has complied with.
“Twitter wants to continue to shroud in secrecy the issue with their false or spam accounts as long as it’s necessary to get Musk to complete this purchase,” his lawyer said. “Instead of saying, ‘Here’s all the data we have that we look at,’ We got delays, we got a non-working replica of the ‘fire hose’ that was made more difficult to use it, we got limits on the fire hose to foil our experts’ efforts to analyse the data.”
Twitter’s lawyers said that his contention was spurious and that the merger agreement between the two accounts for such activity, that spam accounts should not be news to Musk.
“Nothing in the merger agreement is contingent in any way at all on bots, false accounts or anything [of the like]. It isn’t what the merger agreement is about, so it isn’t what this case will be about,” Twitter’s lawyer said.
Musk had requested to delay the trial, though his lawyer said Tuesday, “Obviously, we are not opposing expedition, full stop.” Twitter’s lawyer pushed back against his efforts to impede the proceedings and accused him of trying to “run out the clock.”
Musk’s lawyer argued that he had never done intentional damage to the company, as he is such a large shareholder.
“The idea, frankly, Your Honour, that Mr. Musk is trying to damage the company or effectively is damaging the company by sending out tweets, is preposterous. He has no interest in damaging the company. He has a far larger economic stake than the entire Twitter board,” his lawyer said.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Twitter’s counsel said.
The federal government is also now involved in the merger. In a letter sent Friday, the Securities and Exchange Commission questioned whether Musk was ever serious in his attempts to buy Twitter.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.