Elon Musk’s private messages could land him in hot water again in his legal battle with Twitter. Lawyers for the two sides squared off again in Delaware’s Court of Chancery ahead of an October trial that will decide the fate of the deal.
Among the topics discussed during the nearly three-hour hearing was Musk’s use of the encrypted messaging app Signal.
According to Twitter’s lawyers, Musk has been withholding messages sent through the app, citing a screenshot of an exchange between Musk and Jared Birchall, the head of Musk’s family office.
The message mentioned Morgan Stanley and Marc Andreesen, as well as “a conversation about EU regulatory approval” of Musk’s deal with Twitter, according to Twitter’s lawyers.
After Elon Musk and Birchall denied using Signal to discuss the deal, Twitter’s lawyers said they discovered a screenshot of the exchange. The message was set to delete automatically, according to the screenshot.
Twitter’s lawyers also mentioned “a missing text message” between Musk and Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, who was supposed to be a co-investor in the Twitter deal.
The morning before Musk tweeted that the Twitter deal was “temporarily on hold,” Musk and Ellison were texting. It’s unclear what the texts mean, but Twitter’s lawyers noted that Musk wrote to Ellison saying “interesting times” before setting up a phone call with him.
Twitter’s lawyers have asked the case’s judge, Kathaleen St. J. McCormick, to sanction Musk for his handling of his messages. “We believe the time has come for the court to impose a severe sanction,” Twitter’s attorneys stated during the hearing.
Musk’s side attempted to downplay the significance of the Tesla CEO’s use of Signal. “There actually is no evidence that we destroyed evidence,” one of Musk’s lawyers responded.
“Signal, you know, it sounds like it’s a nefarious device,” she said. “In fact, Twitter executives have testified that a number of them actually use Signal messaging.”
Elon Musk’s lawyers cited the existence of Signal messages between Jack Dorsey and board chair Bret Taylor, and noted that current CEO Parag Agrawal has also turned over Signal messages. “Signal is not some exotic mechanism, it’s very common in Silicon Valley to use this platform,” she said.
Notably, this is not the first time that Twitter’s lawyers have used private messages obtained through the legal discovery process to try to enforce the original terms of the deal with Musk.
Twitter’s lawyers previously cited a text message between Musk and one of his Morgan Stanley bankers in which Musk cited concerns about “World War 3” as a reason for slowing down his talks with Twitter.
In the coming days, McCormick is expected to rule on Twitter’s motion to sanction Musk. On October 17th, a five-day trial to determine the fate of the deal is scheduled.