According to a lawyer for Elon Musk, Twitter Inc. compensated a whistle-blower who raised concerns about operational issues with the social media site $7 million to be silence.
At a hearing on September 6 in the dispute between Twitter and Musk over his attempts to back out of a $44 billion acquisition of the company, the payment was referenced in passing. Alex Spiro, an attorney for Musk, claimed at the court that “they’re paying the guy $7 million and making sure he’s quiet.” The reference was to a payment made to whistleblower Peiter Zatko, according to people with knowledge of the situation.
On Thursday, a spokesman of Twitter declined to comment on the sum paid to Zatko, who served as the organization’s former head of security. The payment was disclosed on Thursday by The Wall Street Journal. According to the newspaper’s unnamed sources acquainted with the situation, the payment was a component of a settlement relating to Zatko’s unrecovered compensation after quitting Twitter. According to the Journal, which cited the persons knowledgeable, the agreement forbade Zatko from speaking in public but allowed him to act as a government whistle-blower regarding his time at the social media giant.
After alleging that Twitter had misled him and investors about the quantity of spam and bot accounts among its more than 230 million users, Musk withdrew from his acquisition of the social media network. Twitter responds that Musk’s bot worries are a ruse to back out of a contract after the richest man in the world supposedly experienced buyer’s remorse.
The trial of Twitter’s case to compel Musk to complete the acquisition is set for October, and both parties are preparing. On Wednesday, Delaware Chancery Judge Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick granted Musk’s request to include Zatko’s accusations in his counterclaims. But she rejected his request to postpone the trial.
The billionaire claims that before being sacked from the social media site, Zatko voiced concerns regarding the volume of bots present in Twitter’s user base as well as claims of insufficient data security and privacy issues. Zatko’s allegations, according to Musk, support his assertions that he rightfully rejected the deal.
Twitter’s attorneys attacked Zatko’s integrity during their presentation to McCormick, describing his charges as unfounded and motivated by a desire to undermine the business he was fired from.
Spiro defended Zatko by claiming that the leaker didn’t simply take his money and run away from his problems with Twitter. Instead, he complained to Congress and the appropriate authorities. In addition to being called to testify in the Twitter case, Zatko has been subpoenaed to appear before a Senate committee the following week.
“The problem is that they paid him $7 million,” Spiro told the judge. “The problem is that if he really wanted money, then how come he’s still doing this if he doesn’t want justice also.”
The case is Twitter v. Musk, 22-0613 in Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).