Aug 29, 2022 - Economy & Business

Musk lawyers subpoena Twitter whistleblower

Illustration of the Twitter logo holding a gavel in its mouth.
Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Lawyers for Elon Musk have filed a subpoena for Peiter Zatko, Twitter's former security chief who recently came forward as a whistleblower alleging his former employer deceived regulators, per a new court filing.

Why it matters: Musk's legal team is trying to leverage the wrongdoings alleged by Zatko, who goes by the pseudonym "Mudge," in its defense of Musk's attempt to walk away from his $44 billion takeover bid.

Details: The subpoena, which was reported earlier by the New York Times, asks for "documents and communications" regarding a number of the alleged wrongdoings Zatko claims, including "Twitter's tracking and measurement of user engagement."

Yes, but: It's unclear whether or how the whistleblower's complaints will have any bearing on Musk's argument.

  • Zatko's whistleblower complaint suggests the company misled regulators about its efforts to reduce spam and protect Twitter from security threats.
  • Musk claims he was misled by Twitter's "miscounting" of the number of false and spam accounts and alleges that Twitter breached its merger agreement by stonewalling information requests. Twitter denies those allegations.

The big picture: Musk's defense team has subpoenaed roughly 100 people and groups in an attempt to convince a Delaware Chancery Court that he should be able to walk away from the deal.

  • Musk argues Twitter misrepresented key user metrics, including monetizable daily active users.
  • Twitter denies misrepresenting any user metrics and argues Musk's takeover agreement doesn't allow him to walk away from the deal over such an issue anyway. They allege Musk is using Twitter's metrics as an excuse to back away from a deal that Musk no longer finds suitable, now that the market has turned.
  • Twitter declined to comment on the subpoena.

Go deeper: Nightmare scenarios from whistleblower's Twitter complaint

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