Musk Tried to Back Out of Twitter Deal by Crying Fake Traffic via a Twitter Pollby@legalpdf
281 reads

Musk Tried to Back Out of Twitter Deal by Crying Fake Traffic via a Twitter Poll

by Legal PDFNovember 24th, 2022
Read on Terminal Reader
Read this story w/o Javascript

Too Long; Didn't Read

Twitter v. Elon Musk Court Filing by Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, July 12, 2022 is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This is part 17 of 31: .FACTUAL ALLEGATIONS- Musk grasps for an out - False or spam accounts

People Mentioned

Mention Thumbnail
Mention Thumbnail

Companies Mentioned

Mention Thumbnail
Mention Thumbnail
featured image - Musk Tried to Back Out of Twitter Deal by Crying Fake Traffic via a Twitter Poll
Legal PDF HackerNoon profile picture

Twitter v. Elon Musk Court Filing by Potter Anderson & Corroon LLP, July 12, 2022 is part of HackerNoon’s Legal PDF Series. You can jump to any part in this filing here. This is part 17 of 31.


VI. Musk grasps for an out

A. False or spam accounts

64. What Musk alighted upon first was a representation in Twitter’s quarterly SEC filings over many consecutive years that based on its internal processes the company estimated “the average of false or spam accounts” on its platform “represented fewer than 5% of our mDAU during the quarter.” “Monetizable Daily Active Usage or Users,” or mDAU, is a non-GAAP metric Twitter employs to measure the number of people or organizations that use the Twitter platform. In its filings, Twitter defines mDAU as “people, organizations or other accounts who logged in or were otherwise authenticated and accessed Twitter on any given day through, Twitter applications that are able to show ads, or paid Twitter products, including subscriptions.”

65. In addition to deploying automated and manual processes that suspend on average more than a million suspicious accounts each day, the company undertakes a rigorous, daily process using human reviewers to estimate spam or false accounts remaining on its platform after automated filtering and manual review.

66. Twitter’s SEC disclosures regarding that process and its findings are heavily qualified. As described in the “Note Regarding Key Metrics” section of its filings, Twitter’s “calculation of mDAU is not based on any standardized industry methodology,” “may differ from estimates published by third parties or from similarly-titled metrics of our competitors,” and “may not accurately reflect the actual number of people or organizations using our platform.” As for the estimate of spam or false accounts as a percentage of mDAU, Twitter explains that it is based on “an internal review of a sample of accounts,” involves “significant judgment,” “may not accurately represent the actual number of [false or spam] accounts,” and could be too low. Twitter has published the same qualified estimate — that fewer than 5% of mDAU are spam or false — for the last three years, and published similar estimates for five years preceding that.

67. Musk was well aware when he signed the merger agreement that spam accounted for some portion of Twitter’s mDAU, and well aware of Twitter’s qualified disclosures. Spam was one of the main reasons Musk cited, publicly and privately, for wanting to buy the company. On April 9, 2022, the day Musk said he wanted to buy Twitter rather than join its board, he texted Taylor that “purging fake users” from the platform had to be done in the context of a private company because he believed it would “make the numbers look terrible.” At a public event on April 14, Musk said eliminating spam bots would be a “top priority” for him in running Twitter. On April 21, days before the deal was inked, he declared:

Musk echoed that same sentiment in the press release announcing the merger on April 25, stating that upon acquiring Twitter he would prioritize “defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans.”

68. Yet Musk made his offer without seeking any representation from Twitter regarding its estimates of spam or false accounts. He even sweetened his offer to the Twitter board by expressly withdrawing his prior diligence condition.

69. On May 5, 2022, Musk announced that he had raised an additional $7.1 billion of equity commitments for the deal from 19 investors — including $1 billion from Oracle chairman Larry Ellison, $800 million from Sequoia Capital, $400 million from Andreessen Horowitz, and $375 million from a subsidiary of the Qatari sovereign wealth fund. Musk’s investors, all sophisticated market participants, made these commitments in the face of Musk’s public statements regarding spam accounts, and knowing he had forsworn diligence. Musk made his plans to address spam a key part of his pitch: As Andreessen Horowitz’s co-CEO stated in publicly announcing the investment, the firm thought Musk was “perhaps the only person in the world” who could “fix” Twitter’s alleged “difficult issue[]” with “bots.”

70. Then, however, as the market (and Tesla’s stock price) declined, Musk’s advisors began to demand detailed information about Twitter’s methods of calculating mDAU and estimating the prevalence of false or spam accounts

71. Twitter had entered into a confidentiality agreement with Musk to share non-public information in preparation for post-closing transition, and convened an in-person meeting with Musk and his team on May 6, 2022. Among the topics of discussion were mDAU and spam-related subjects. In advance of the meeting, Musk’s bankers circulated an agenda with items related to users on the Twitter platform, including: “How do you estimate that fewer than 5% of mDAU are false or spam accounts?” Twitter’s representatives addressed that question at the meeting, summarizing the company’s process.

72. Following up on or about May 9, Musk’s bankers at Morgan Stanley added entries to their diligence tracker requesting user-related information, including a request for “User database containing key metrics including, but not limited to, number of users, number of verified users, number of monthly active users, number of handles, etc.” Neither Musk nor his advisors said what had prompted these requests or identified new information regarding spam or false accounts that had come to light warranting the inquiries. Nothing had changed about Twitter’s estimates concerning the prevalence of spam on the platform in the days since signing. Nonetheless, in the spirit of cooperation, Twitter responded on May 12 with data sets and written descriptions of its audience metrics and its process for sampling the prevalence of false or spam accounts.

73. Early on May 13, 2022, in advance of a diligence meeting that had been scheduled to discuss the data Twitter had provided, Musk Tweeted without any advance notice to the company that the “Twitter deal [is] temporarily on hold” until the company showed him proof for its estimate that less than 5% of Twitter accounts are spam or false:

The Reuters story Musk linked to in his Tweet was a report on Twitter’s 10-Q filing made on May 2, 2022, and contained the same heavily qualified 5% estimate Twitter had been disclosing in its SEC filings for the past three years. Musk had no basis for asserting that the deal was “on hold” based on this longstanding disclosure. Twitter’s deal counsel called Musk’s deal counsel. Two hours after the “on hold” Tweet was published, Musk belatedly Tweeted that he was still “committed” to the deal.

74. Cognizant of its own obligations under the merger agreement, Twitter proceeded with the May 13 diligence meeting, which lasted for about two hours. During this session, Twitter explained, among other things, that its spam estimation process entails daily sampling for a total set of approximately 9,000 accounts per quarter that are manually reviewed.

75. Later that day, Musk Tweeted publicly a misrepresentation that Twitter’s sample size for spam estimates was just 100.

76. The next day, he boasted publicly that he had violated his nondisclosure obligations:

77. Musk’s Tweets on May 13 and 14 violated his obligations under the merger agreement, including the provisions prohibiting public comments not consented to by Twitter, disparagement, misuse of information provided under Section 6.4, requiring best efforts to consummate the merger.

78. On May 16, Agrawal Tweeted that Twitter’s 5% estimate is based on “multiple human reviews (in replicate) for thousands of accounts, that are sampled at random, consistently over time, from *accounts we count as mDAUs*.” He explained that the company’s human review process “uses both public and private data (eg, IP address, phone number, geolocation, client/browser signatures, what the account does when it’s active…) to make a determination on each account” — something Twitter also explains in its SEC filings. Agrawal stood by Twitter’s estimate, and noted that the company is constantly updating its systems and rules to remove as much spam as possible:

79. Musk responded with another disparaging Tweet:

80. As the market continued to fall, Musk persisted in his public and misleading attacks on Twitter’s handling and disclosure of spam or false accounts. In another Tweet on May 15, 2022 and a statement at a technology conference on May 16, Musk made the baseless claim that fake users might account for as much as 90% of Twitter’s users. Asked whether the “Twitter deal [is] going to get closed,” Musk responded that “it really depends on a lot of factors” and posited that Twitter’s estimate that spam or false accounts comprised fewer than 5% of mDAU might be “a material adverse misstatement” if “in fact it is four or five times that number, or perhaps ten times that number.”

81. On May 17, 2022, Musk Tweeted, without basis or explanation, that “20% fake/spam accounts, while 4 times what Twitter claims, could be *much* higher,” adding that “[t]his deal cannot move forward” pending further analysis of Twitter’s spam estimates. In yet another breach of his non-disparagement obligation and efforts covenants, Musk encouraged the SEC to investigate the accuracy of Twitter’s disclosures:

Continue reading here