Elon Musk’s rocky track record with lawyers goes back years

Elon Musk’s Twitter account is seen via the Twitter logo in this illustration taken April 25, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

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  • Musk has amped up criticism from senior Twitter lawyers since he struck a deal to buy the platform
  • He’s facing a shareholder lawsuit over turnover atop Tesla’s legal department

(Reuters) – In the two days after Twitter announced it had accepted Elon Musk’s $44 billion bid to acquire the company, Tesla’s CEO posted at least three tweets criticizing the companies. best lawyers in the company he seeks to own.

First Musk criticized Twitter’s chief legal and policy officer, Vijaya Gadde, for the platform’s decision to block a New York Post article during the last presidential election, prompting other users to take to it. He responded to a tweet accusing Twitter’s lead attorney, Jim Baker, of “facilitating fraud” when he was FBI general counsel, amplifying the message. And on Wednesday, he returned to Gadde, posting a meme critical of her and the company’s moderation policies.

The tweets drew attention to a provision in Musk’s deal with Twitter that says he must not disparage the social media platform when discussing the deal. It’s unclear if they could trigger the provision or if it would result in penalties. Even lawyers using Twitter to weigh in on Musk’s tweets seemed divided on whether the posts could affect the merger.

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A Twitter spokesperson declined to comment on the posts and Gadde could not be reached through the company. A lawyer for Musk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Whatever the effect of the tweets, this isn’t the first time Musk’s relationship with corporate lawyers has made headlines.

A lawsuit filed by a shareholder in Delaware last year took aim at the high turnover of attorneys leading Tesla’s legal team in recent years, alleging that it “reflects the fact that none of them was unable to exercise independent advice on matters that differed from Musk’s desired outcome.” .”

The media also followed the departures. David Searle, currently acting chief legal officer of Tesla, is the fifth person to hold the position in the past three years. Todd Maron, who previously represented Musk in divorce proceedings as a private attorney, was the longest-serving general counsel when he left in 2018 after nearly five years. It is unclear why the lawyers have left the firm in recent years and none have responded to messages from Reuters.

The shareholders’ lawsuit, which said Tesla’s board failed in its duties by not keeping the general counsel independent of Musk’s whims, has been on hold since last year, pending an outcome. another shareholder lawsuit in California. Attorneys for Musk and Tesla have denied allegations of wrongdoing in the California litigation. Both cases center on Musk’s tweets about privatizing Tesla.

The Delaware case alleges that Musk and Tesla’s board of directors violated a consent decree with the Securities and Exchange Commission over tweets Musk posted about Tesla stock. As part of the 2018 arrangement, Musk stepped down as chairman of Tesla’s board of directors for three years and agreed to have the board pre-approve future tweets about the company. The SEC has since probed several potential violations.

Last month, Musk asked to end the deal and dismiss recent subpoenas issued by the SEC against him, alleging the investigations amounted to harassment and violated his right to free speech. A Manhattan judge on Wednesday rejected Musk’s offer, leaving the consent decree in place.

Read more:

Elon Musk to buy Twitter for $44 billion

Musk loses bid to end SEC deal over Tesla tweet surveillance

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Reporting by Jacqueline Thomsen

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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