Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk subpoenaed Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter Inc. and his longtime friend, in his defense against the social media company’s lawsuit to make him complete his proposed $44 billion buyout.
Records made public on Monday show Dorsey was served with a legal order to give Musk any communications or documents related to the takeover deal inked in April, as well as information touching on false or spam accounts or how Twitter calculates the number of its active users.
The subpoena asks for anything Dorsey has on the topics dating back to January of 2019.
Tesla boss and world’s wealthiest man, Elon Musk, has accused Twitter of fraud, alleging the company misled him about key aspects of its business, particularly the number of accounts that are actually spam or automated “bots” instead of people.
Twitter has stuck by its estimates that bots make up fewer than five percent of users.
Twitter also disputed Musk’s assertion that he has the right to walk away if its bot count is found to be wrong, since he didn’t seek information on that topic when he made the buyout offer.
The company accuses Musk of contriving a story to escape a merger agreement that he no longer found attractive.
“Musk’s counterclaims, based as they are on distortion, misrepresentation, and outright deception, change nothing,” Twitter said in a court filing.
Rival lawyers have been serving subpoenas for weeks seeking documents or depositions from a wide range of people connected with the buyout, running Twitter’s business, and even with a holding company formed by Musk.
Musk’s decision to subpoena Dorsey, who served two stints as CEO, is an interesting one given the duo’s history.
The two executives, both big Bitcoin supporters, have been friendly for years.
In a Rolling Stone interview in early 2019, Dorsey said he “loved” Musk and what he was trying to do with Tesla Inc. and SpaceX.
Musk even appeared at Twitter’s companywide retreat in early 2020 to speak with employees by videochat — during which he complained about Twitter’s bot problem.
Dorsey has praised Musk, describing him as a favorite influential tweeter, and invited him to Twitter to discuss product ideas.
More recently, the two have advocated for making Twitter’s software and content moderation decisions more transparent.
After Musk became Twitter’s largest shareholder in late March, Dorsey was the first person at the company he called, according to a regulatory filing.
Dorsey, who was still a Twitter director at the time, later encouraged Musk to join the board and spoke glowingly of him after the board agreed to sell Musk the company.
Earlier this month, the Tesla CEO accused Twitter of hiding the names of workers specifically responsible for evaluating the proportion of spam and robot accounts.
Musk argues the company has failed to show that they make up fewer than 5% of its active users, as it has said in regulatory filings.
Twitter says it’s all a show to justify walking away from the deal.
The Twitter deal included a provision that if the deal fell apart, the party breaking the agreement would pay a termination fee of $1 billion under certain circumstances.
Billions of dollars are at stake, but so is the future of Twitter, which Musk has said should allow any legal speech — an absolutist position that has sparked fears the network could be used to incite violence.
The legal fight is gathering speed as preparations have begun for an October trial in Delaware’s Chancery Court, which specializes in complex, high-stakes business battles.
Twitter has urged shareholders to endorse the deal, setting a vote on the merger for September 13.
While fielding questions at a recent Tesla shareholders meeting, Musk was asked whether his potential ownership of Twitter might distract from his running of the electric car company.
“I think Tesla, you know, would continue to do very well even if I was kidnapped by aliens, or went back to my home planet,” he joked, drawing laughter and applause.
“To be frank, I don’t have an easy answer,” Musk added.
He assured shareholders that, for now, he has no plans to leave his Tesla chief role.