What just happened? Another day, another twist in the Elon Musk vs. Twitter legal spat. According to Musk's lawyer, the ex-employee whistleblower who recently claimed Twitter lied about its security protocols and fake accounts was paid $7 million by the company to keep silent.
As per Bloomberg, the payment was mentioned in passing by Musk lawyer Alex Spiro during a hearing in the lawsuit on September 6. "They're paying the guy $7 million and making sure he's quiet," said Spiro.
Twitter's former head of security, Peiter Zatko, who goes by the nickname "Mudge," came forward last month to claim company executives deceived federal regulators and its own board of directors over how it protects user data, security measures, and its ability to fight spam accounts.
Musk's legal team has subpoenaed Zatko to testify in the upcoming trial in which the billionaire will try to escape his abandoned takeover deal without paying the $1 billion termination fee.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said the $7 million payment was part of a settlement related to Zatko's lost compensation after Twitter fired him. And although the deal included a non-disclosure agreement that meant he couldn't disparage the company publicly, it still allowed him to act as a government whistleblower about his time at the firm.
On a $/bot basis, this deal is awesome— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) September 1, 2022
Twitter has called Zatko's allegations a false narrative. It says the former worker has a "huge ax to grind" against and was not in charge of spam during his time at Twitter. Spiro defended Zatko by saying that rather than taking his money and walking away, he went to Congress and regulators with his complaints.
"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."
Musk's team had wanted the trial date to be pushed back by a few weeks from October 17 to review Zatko's allegations. Although Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick denied this request, she did agree that the whistleblower's claims could be added to Musk's case. "Even four weeks' delay [of the trial] would risk further harm to Twitter too great to justify," said McCormick.
Musk's lawyers are set to depose Zatko today. He will appear in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
Twitter has long claimed that Musk isn't pulling out of the deal because of fake account numbers. It says he has buyer's remorse from not performing due diligence. It recently claimed his belief World War III was about to start also influenced his decision to walk away from the deal.