Twitter vs Musk: Judge orders October trial

Twitter took the lead in a court battle against the world’s richest man on Tuesday after a US judge ruled the trial would be short and quick, as the social network called for.

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The platform filed lawsuits against Elon Musk last week to force him to honor his commitment made in late April to acquire it for $44 billion.

After hearing both parties, Judge Kathaleen McCormick, president of a commercial law court in Delaware (Northeast), said the trial would take place in October and last five days.

Twitter had requested an expedited procedure from September so as not to prolong the period of uncertainty that is partially paralyzing the company.

The judge, who has COVID and therefore held the hearing via Zoom, acknowledged that “delays risk doing irreparable harm to Twitter.”

Elon Musk’s lawyers appealed Friday to prevent hostilities from opening before next year. They assure that the experts will have to analyze “mountains of data” to prove, as the multi-billionaire claims, that the platform is full of automated accounts and spam, well above the officially stated 5%.

For this reason, the head of Tesla and SpaceX had indicated that he would unilaterally end the agreement to take over the social network, which he deems a “public place” for “democracy”.

The preliminary hearing went quite “favorably for Twitter,” Adam Badawi, a law professor at the University of Berkeley, told AFP.

It reinforced the vision of the market, which already believed Twitter had the “edge” over Elon Musk, Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives tweeted.

Especially since Kathaleen McCormick also mentioned that it is not certain whether Elon Musk’s compensation payment will be enough to make up for the damage suffered.

Twitter’s action was up more than 3% to $39.69 as of 18:10 GMT.

Despite going through an image crisis after months of being attacked and slandered by her ex-beau, the platform is the favorite in this showdown. His lawyers believe Elon Musk has changed his mind given the recent drop in stock market valuations of tech companies.

In the ad they accuse him of “hypocrisy” and “bad faith”. On Tuesday, they insisted on the issue of automated accounts, which they saw as an excuse for the multi-billionaire to sneak away.

“This issue, which Musk says requires complex review, is a manufactured problem designed to complicate things and cause delays,” said William Savitt, Twitter’s attorney. “The merger agreement doesn’t even mention bots or spam,” he pointed out.

“We suspect that Mr. Musk wants to delay this process long enough to never be held accountable. (…) He knows that in such circumstances, belated justice is often no justice. He even hopes so,” he said.

If Twitter wins, the businessman, who is followed by more than 100 million people on the network, could be forced to buy the company at the price agreed at the end of April ($54.20) or pay substantial damages.

Kathaleen McCormick, the first female president of the Delaware Court of Chancery, is best known for forcing Kohlberg, a company that had also attempted to break off an engagement, to buy the company in question, DecoPac.

The fate of Bluebird, a social network used by politicians, celebrities, activists and influencers worldwide, seems to have little in common with that of less prominent organizations.

But “I don’t think it’s different enough that Delaware is risking its reputation by choosing not to apply the terms of the agreement,” says Adam Badawi.

Elon Musk’s attorney, Andrew Rossman, argued that “terabytes” of data needed to be looked at and that it was “ridiculous” to imagine it being possible in such a short amount of time.

But “if the judge had found it necessary to analyze mountains of information, she would have chosen a later date,” emphasizes the professor. “So that gives the impression that the question about bots isn’t going to be as detailed as Musk would like.”

The prospect of Elon Musk buying the social network, willingly or by force, has raised some concerns among many of Blue Bird’s employees and users, as well as human rights defenders, since April. The whimsical boss intends to relax safeguards against harassment and misinformation .

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