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 fast, as the social network demanded .
The platform launched lawsuits against Elon Musk last week, to force him to honor his commitment made at the end of April to acquire it for 44 billion dollars.
Judge Kathaleen McCormick, president of a court specializing in business law in Delaware (northeast), indicated, after hearing both parties, that the trial would be held in October and would last five days.
Twitter had requested an accelerated procedure, from September, so as not to prolong the period of uncertainty which partially paralyzes the company.
The judge, who has Covid and therefore held the hearing via Zoom, acknowledged that “delays risked causing irreparable damage to Twitter”.
Elon Musk’s lawyers had filed an appeal on Friday for hostilities not to be opened 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 beyond the proportion of 5% officially indicated.
This is the reason that the boss of Tesla and SpaceX had given to unilaterally end the agreement to take over the social network which he considers to be a “public square” essential to “democracy”.
– Favorite Twitter –
The preliminary hearing was quite “Twitter-friendly”, reacted Adam Badawi, professor of law at the University of Berkeley, for AFP.
It reinforced the vision of the market, which already thought that Twitter had the “advantage” against Elon Musk, tweeted analyst Dan Ives, of Wedbush Securities.
Especially since Kathaleen McCormick also mentioned that it was not certain that the payment of damages from Elon Musk would be enough to repair the harm suffered.
Twitter’s action took more than 3% to 39.69 dollars at 6:10 p.m. GMT.
Although she is going through an image crisis after months of attacks and denigration from her ex-suitor, the platform is the favorite in this showdown. His lawyers believe that Elon Musk has changed his mind in the face of the recent drop in stock market valuations of technology companies.
In the complaint, they accuse him of “hypocrisy” and “bad faith”. On Tuesday, they insisted on the subject of automated accounts, a pretext for the multi-billionaire to slip away, in their eyes.
“This topic that Musk says will require a complex review is a fabricated problem, designed to complicate things and cause delays,” argued Twitter attorney William Savitt. “The merger agreement doesn’t even mention bots or spam,” he insisted.
“We suspect that Mr. Musk wants to delay this trial long enough to never be held to account. (…) He knows that in such circumstances, justice delayed is often justice not done. This is even what he hopes for, ”he said.
– ” Ridiculous ” –
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 US dollars). action) or to pay substantial damages.
Kathaleen McCormick, the first woman president of the Delaware Court of Chancery, is best known for having forced Kohlberg, a company that had also tried to break off an engagement, to buy the company in question, DecoPac.
The fate of the bluebird, a social network used worldwide by politicians, celebrities, activists and influencers, seems to have little in common with that of less prominent organizations.
But “it’s not different enough, I think, for Delaware to risk its reputation by deciding not to apply the terms of the agreement”, considers Adam Badawi.
Elon Musk’s lawyer, Andrew Rossman, argued that ‘terabytes’ of data would have to be looked at and that it was ‘ridiculous’ to imagine it would be possible in such a short time.
But “if the judge thought that it was necessary to analyze mountains of information, she would have chosen a later date”, underlines the professor. “So that gives the impression that the question of bots will not be as detailed as Musk would like.”
The prospect that Elon Musk buys the social network, willingly or by force, has aroused some anxiety since April among many employees and users of the blue bird, as well as on the part of associations for the defense of human rights online, because the whimsical boss intends to relax the safeguards against harassment and misinformation.