Judge tells Elon Musk he can't stall Twitter trial

Tech billionaire can tap into Mudge whistleblower complaint, though

A judge has turned down Elon Musk's request to delay his trial with Twitter.

That said, the billionaire's legal team was granted permission to include in his side of the case allegations made by the company's former security lead and whistleblower Peiter "Mudge" Zatko.

Twitter sued Musk in July for attempting to call off the $44 billion offer he made back in April to buy the website.

The Tesla tycoon went back on his promise to take over the company in an all-cash deal, accusing Twitter of not disclosing the true number of fake bot accounts as a key reason for the break down in negotiations. Twitter, meanwhile, wants him to either complete the acquisition as promised, or pay a $1 billion break-up fee, and is taking him to trial in Delaware, USA, to get what it wants.

Musk has tried to push back proceedings twice now. First, he argued that his legal team needed more time to prepare his case against Twitter.

Then, after Zatko claimed in a whistleblower complaint that, among other things, the company failed to secure users' private data, Musk asked to delay the trial again to give his lawyers more time to comb through the allegations to use as justification for terminating the takeover deal.

The trial is scheduled for October 17. 

Kathaleen St Jude McCormick, Chancellor of Delaware's Court of Chancery, has now denied [PDF] that request. She sided with Twitter and agreed extending the case would financially harm the company. 

"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 constraints of a repudiated merger agreement. I am convinced that even four weeks' delay would risk further harm to Twitter too great to justify," she wrote today. 

She is, however, going to allow Musk to include the allegations by Zatko in his counterclaims against Twitter. "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," her ruling stated.

Twitter, meanwhile, has played down or outright denied Zatko's claims.

CEO Parag Agrawal claimed Zatko – a respected and knowledgeable infosec veteran – was fired with cause and said his complaint was "riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies," according to an internal memo. 

Text messages revealed during a pre-trial hearing this week show Musk had second thoughts about buying Twitter in May, citing concerns about Russia's invasion of Ukraine. He texted his bankers urging them to "slow down" and said "it won't make sense to buy Twitter if we're heading into World War 3," the Financial Times reported. ®

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