Elon Musk seems to be squaring up for some legal battles at Twitter, which he bought in October for $44 billion, as the Tesla chief executive has stopped paying rent on its offices and has told employees not to pay vendors, the New York Times reported Wednesday .
Citing people familiar with internal conversations, Musk has also revamped Twitter’s legal department, has refused to pay a $197,725 bill for private charter flights made the week of his takeover — and is considering denying severance payments to thousands of people who have been laid off since his deal, the Times reported.
Musk has threatened employees with lawsuits if they talk to the media or ““act in a manner contrary to the company’s interest,” according to an internal email sent last Friday that the Times obtained.
Musk set about cutting costs at the social-media platform immediately on closing his deal. In his first week, he was hit by a wave of resignations, implemented massive layoffs and reversed suspensions on certain accounts. Advertisers have responded by cutting ties with the company.
Musk did not respond to a request from the Times for comment. MarketWatch also reached out to Musk.
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The billionaire seems to have also shared ways with his personal lawyer, Alex Spiro, who he appointed to head legal and policy matters at Twitter after firing his chief legal officer and general counsel for cases in October.
Spiro, who successfully defended Musk in his defamation case in 2019, is no longer working at the company, according to six people familiar with the decision, said the Times. They said Musk was unhappy with some of Spiro’s decisions, including his call to keep Twitter deputy general counsel, James A. Baker, in his role. Baker was general counsel of the FBI until May 2018, and joined Twitter in 2020.
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Musk said last week that he terminated Baker after learning he was responsible for reviewing internal communications relating to Twitter’s decision to limit access to a 2020 New York Post story regarding Hunter Biden’s laptop. Musk has since given those files to a group of journalists to discredit the decision making of former executives.
On Monday, Twitter disbanded its trust and safety council, an advisory group created in 2016 to focus on civil rights and child safety.
Meanwhile, Tesla stock TSLA,
has been hit hard by concerns about the level of distraction Twitter is creating for Musk, and closed Tuesday at a two-year low. The stock has fallen 54% in the year to date, and is down 17% in the month-to-date. The S&P 500 SPX,
has fallen 1.5% in December so far.
Musk’s reputation has also taken a battering as he has continued to send sometimes bizarre tweets and taunt others, including earlier this week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medial adviser.
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On Sunday, comedian Dave Chappelle brought Musk onstage during a performance in San Francisco, only for him to be greeted by jeers and boos.
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