Elon Musk has accused Twitter of an “unjustifiable request to rush” the trial to determine whether he should be forced to complete a $44bn deal to buy the social media company.
Musk has suggested a trial start in February at the earliest, according to a court filing from his lawyers on Friday. That is several months later than the September timing being pushed for by Twitter in its lawsuit, which was filed in Delaware chancery court just days after Musk announced his intention to terminate the deal.
Lawyers representing the Tesla chief executive on Friday said in the 16-page response to Twitter’s lawsuit that the question of spam accounts on the network — one of the primary reasons Musk has given for attempting to back out of the deal — was “fundamental” to the case and required lengthier investigation and “substantial time for discovery”.
Musk’s lawyers described the proposed trial date, and the suggestion by Twitter it could be completed in four days, as being on a “breakneck schedule”.
“Twitter’s sudden request for warp speed after two months of foot-dragging and obfuscation is its latest tactic to shroud the truth about spam accounts long enough to railroad defendants into closing,” the filing read.
A hearing on the matter is due to be held on Tuesday. Twitter declined to comment.
The social media company’s lawsuit accused Musk, the world’s richest man, of trying to back out of the deal on account of the rout in tech stocks that has hurt the value of Twitter and many of its peers. On July 8, when Musk announced his intention to back out of the deal worth $54.20 per share, the stock had fallen to $36.81.
In a case that has captivated the corporate world, Musk’s defence rests on his ability to convince the court that the issue of bots — automated spam accounts — on the platform is far greater than previously disclosed, representing a “material adverse effect” that would give him the ability to back out of the deal.
Musk has alleged Twitter had breached the merger agreement by not sharing sufficient information on fake accounts, a position reiterated in Friday’s filing, which again questioned the company’s long-stated estimate that bots made up less than 5 per cent of users.
Following a meeting between Musk and Twitter’s chief executive Parag Agrawal, “Musk was stunned to discover that Twitter’s process for identifying spam accounts relied on human reviewers to eyeball a minuscule portion of the userbase rather than utilising the company’s machine learning capabilities”, the filing said.
In its lawsuit, Twitter argued Musk had been well aware of the site’s issue with bots, pointing to tweets posted by Musk highlighting the matter prior to the deal.
The social network also accused Musk of breaching the terms of the merger agreement that demanded he not disparage the company, by highlighting his tweets that appeared to be goading Twitter’s leadership.
Addressing that claim, Musk’s filing accused Twitter of being unable to take a joke.
“With the sense of humor of a bot, Twitter claims that Musk is damaging the company with tweets like a Chuck Norris meme and a poop emoji,” the filing stated. “Twitter ignores that Musk is its second-largest shareholder with a far greater economic stake than the entire Twitter board.”
Additional reporting by Hannah Murphy