Musk shakes up Twitter’s legal team as he looks to cut more costs

SAN FRANCISCO — Over the previous two weeks, Elon Musk has shaken up Twitter’s legal division, disbanded a council that suggested the social media firm on issues of safety and is constant to take drastic steps to cut costs.

Musk seems to be gearing up for legal battles at Twitter, which he bought in October for $44 billion, in accordance to seven individuals aware of inner conversations. He and his team have revamped Twitter’s legal division and pushed out one among his closest advisers within the course of. They have additionally instructed workers to not pay distributors in anticipation of potential litigation, the individuals mentioned.

To cut costs, Twitter has not paid lease for its San Francisco headquarters or any of its world places of work for weeks, three individuals shut to the corporate mentioned. Twitter has additionally refused to pay a $197,725 invoice for personal constitution flights made the week of Musk’s takeover, in accordance to a duplicate of a lawsuit filed in New Hampshire District Court and obtained by The New York Times.

Twitter’s leaders have additionally mentioned the results of denying severance funds to hundreds of people that have been laid off because the takeover, two individuals aware of the talks mentioned. And Musk has threatened workers with lawsuits in the event that they discuss to the media and “act in a fashion opposite to the corporate’s curiosity,” in accordance to an inner e-mail despatched final Friday.

The aggressive strikes sign that Musk continues to be slashing expenditures and is bending or breaking Twitter’s earlier agreements to make his mark. His reign has been characterised by chaos, a collection of resignations and layoffs, reversals of the platform’s earlier suspensions and guidelines, and capricious selections which have pushed away advertisers.

Musk didn’t reply to a request for remark.

As he has transitioned into the function of Twitter’s new chief, Musk has had a solid of rotating legal professionals by his facet. In October, he fired each Twitter’s chief legal officer and normal counsel “for trigger” inside hours of closing his acquisition and put in his private lawyer, Alex Spiro, to head up legal and coverage issues on the firm.

Spiro is not working at Twitter, in accordance to six individuals aware of the choice. Those individuals mentioned that Musk has been sad with some selections made by Spiro, a famous felony protection lawyer who efficiently defended the billionaire in a high-profile defamation case in late 2019 and labored his approach into the Twitter proprietor’s internal circle.

Among these selections was Spiro’s name to retain Twitter’s deputy normal counsel, James A. Baker, via Musk’s numerous rounds of layoffs and firings. Baker had served as normal counsel on the FBI till May 2018 — advising the company on politically fraught investigations into Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal e-mail server and Donald Trump’s marketing campaign — and joined Twitter in 2020.

Last week, Musk mentioned he terminated Baker after he realized that the lawyer had been accountable for reviewing inner communications in regards to the firm’s choice to suppress a 2020 New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s laptop computer. Musk had ordered that these communications, which he has known as the “Twitter Files,” be given to a gaggle of journalists to launch and discredit the decision-making of the corporate’s previous executives.

With Twitter drained of legal expertise from layoffs and departures, Musk has sought legal professionals from his different corporations, together with rocket maker SpaceX, to fill the void. More than half a dozen legal professionals from the house exploration firm have been given entry to Twitter’s inner techniques, in accordance to two individuals and paperwork seen by the Times. SpaceX workers who’ve been introduced in to Twitter embody Chris Cardaci, the corporate’s vice chairman of legal, and Tim Hughes, its senior vice chairman, world enterprise and authorities affairs.

A SpaceX spokesperson didn’t return a request for remark.

Among its legal challenges, Twitter is going through more questions from the Federal Trade Commission, which is investigating whether or not the corporate continues to be adhering to a consent decree. In 2011, the corporate signed a consent decree with the FTC after two information breaches and mentioned it could not mislead customers about privateness safety. In May, the corporate paid $150 million to the FTC and Justice Department to settle allegations that it had violated the phrases of that consent decree, which was expanded.

The FTC has despatched Twitter letters asking whether or not it nonetheless has the sources and employees to adhere to the consent decree, two individuals with information of the matter mentioned. An FTC spokesperson declined to remark.

On Friday, as Musk inspired the discharge of inner info via the continuation of his Twitter Files, he additionally despatched an e-mail to workers noting “many detailed leaks of confidential Twitter info” confirmed that some have been violating their nondisclosure agreements.

“If you clearly and intentionally violate the NDA that you simply signed when becoming a member of Twitter, you settle for legal responsibility to the total extent of the regulation and Twitter will instantly search damages,” he wrote. The e-mail was first reported by the Platformer e-newsletter.

Musk’s team has additionally deliberated the deserves of not paying severance to the hundreds of people that have left the corporate since he took over, when there have been about 7,500 full-time workers. While Musk and his advisers had beforehand thought-about forgoing any severance when discussing cuts in late October, the corporate finally determined that U.S.-based workers could be given not less than two months of pay and one month of severance pay in order that the corporate could be compliant with federal and state labor legal guidelines.

Musk’s team is now reconsidering whether or not it ought to pay a few of these months, in accordance to two individuals aware of the discussions, or simply face lawsuits from disgruntled former workers. Many former workers nonetheless haven’t acquired any paperwork formalizing their separation from Twitter, 5 individuals mentioned. Musk has already refused to pay thousands and thousands of {dollars} in exit packages to executives he claims have been terminated “for trigger.”

As Twitter has downsized, Musk’s team has been hoping to renegotiate the phrases of lease agreements, two individuals aware of the dialogue mentioned. The firm has acquired complaints from actual property funding and administration corporations together with Shorenstein, which owns the San Francisco buildings that Twitter occupies.

A spokesperson for Shorenstein declined to remark.

In different money-saving strikes, Twitter has laid off its kitchen employees and begun to listing workplace provides, industrial-grade kitchen tools and electronics from its San Francisco workplace for public sale.

Musk additionally continues to cut employees and leaders, together with Nelson Abramson, Twitter’s world head of infrastructure, and Alan Rosa, world info expertise head and vice chairman of knowledge safety, in accordance to 4 individuals aware of the strikes.

On Sunday evening, Musk despatched two emails to Twitter’s employees with recommendation about how to work for him that he had beforehand shared with SpaceX and Tesla workers. One message targeted on first rules pondering, a worldview based mostly on the teachings of Aristotle to scale back assumptions to fundamental axioms, which Musk credited with serving to him make troublesome selections. The different advocated towards office hierarchies.

On Monday, Twitter notified members of its belief and security council, an advisory group shaped in 2016, that it could dissolve instantly. The council was created to information Twitter via difficult security issues and content material moderation points, and was made up of organizations targeted on civil rights and youngster security.

“Safety on-line can imply survival offline,” mentioned Jodie Ginsberg, president of the Committee to Protect Journalists, one of many organizations concerned within the council. “As a platform that has turn out to be a crucial device in each open and repressive nations, Twitter should play a constructive function in guaranteeing that journalists and the general public at massive are ready to obtain and impart info with out concern of reprisals.”

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