Elon Musk’s request to delay his trial against Twitter has been denied by a Delaware court. However, Musk’s request to include the claims put forth by whistleblower and former Twitter security chief Peiter “Mudge” Zatko in his countersuit against the social media company has also been approved.
The ruling was outlined by Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick in a letter. With this in mind, Elon Musk has gained a small win and a loss in his initial session with Twitter in court. Musk’s legal team had requested to push the trial back to mid-November, but with the rejection of the request, the trial is still expected to begin on October 17, 2022.
“Defendants’ motion to extend the case schedule is denied… In arguing that trial should be delayed by at least four weeks, Defendants contend that no external deadline creates any urgency. They observe that the merger agreement’s “termination date of October 24, 2022is automatically stayed if litigation is commenced, and debt financing has an outside date of April 25, 2023.”
“They adduce, therefore, that ‘any prejudice to Twitter can be easily mitigated by . . . continu[ing] the trial date.’ But the opposite is true. I previously rejected Defendants’ arguments in response to Twitter’s motion to expedite, making clear that the longer the delay until trial, the greater the risk of irreparable harm to Twitter. Indeed,Twitter has represented that the anticipated risk of harm has materialized over the course of this litigation.
“Twitter ‘has suffered increased employee attrition,’ which ‘undermin[es]the company’s ability to pursue its operations goals. The company has been forced for months to manage under the constrains of a repudiated merger agreement, including Defendants’ continued refusal to provide any consents for matters under the operating covenants. ‘I am convinced that even four weeks’ delay would risk further harm to Twitter too great to justify,” McCormick wrote.
But while Musk’s efforts to delay the trial were unsuccessful, the Tesla CEO’s efforts to augment his countersuit with former Twitter security chief Peiter Zatko’s whistleblower complaint were successful. Zatko had accused Twitter of fraud while also noting that the social media company did not really care to find out how many of its users were spam or fake accounts. Twitter, for its part, has been dismissive of Zatko’s whistleblower complaints.
Twitter lawyers, during their session in a Delaware Chancery court on Tuesday, claimed that Zatko’s accusations do not meet the legal standard to nullify its merger contract with Musk even if they were true. Twitter’s legal team also noted that while Zatko did raise security concerns during his tenure with the company, Twitter investigated the issues internally and found that the security chief’s concerns were “without merit.”
McCormick, however, does not seem to agree with Twitter’s legal team on the issue.
“Defendant’s motion to amend is granted… The newly published Whistleblower Complaint would be grounds in most instances to permit an amendment under the low bar of Rule 15(a). Twitter argues that the amendment would be futile, but their arguments falter against the exceedingly movant-friendly standard of Rule 15(a). I am reticent to say more concerning the merits of the counterclaims at this posture before they have been fully litigated. The world will have to wait for the post-trial decision.
“Twitter also argues that the amendment would be prejudicial to the extent it would expand discovery and extend the case schedule, and Twitter’s arguments to this effect are far more forceful than Twitter’s futility arguments. But that prejudice can be mitigated by cabining additional discovery to the new allegations and maintaining the existing case schedule. So that is what I will do,” McCormick wrote.
Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick’s letter can be viewed below.
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