Twitter Inc. paid $ 7 million to a whistleblower who raised questions about operational issues within the social media platform to ensure his silence, according to an Elon Musk attorney.
The payment was mentioned in passing at a September 6 hearing in the lawsuit between Twitter and Musk over his attempts to nullify a $ 44 billion purchase of the company.
“They are paying the boy $ 7 million and making sure he is quiet,” Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro said at the hearing.
People familiar with the matter confirmed that it was a payment to whistleblower Peiter Zatko.
Twitter reps declined to comment on the payment to Zatko, the company’s former security chief, on Thursday. The Wall Street Journal reported the payment on Thursday.
The newspaper, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said the payment was part of a settlement related to Zatko’s failure to pay compensation after leaving Twitter.
The deal did not allow Zatko to speak publicly, but it would have allowed him to act as a government informant regarding his time spent at the social media company, the Journal reported, citing familiar people.
Musk ditched the Twitter acquisition after claiming the platform misled him and investors about the number of spam and bot accounts among its 230+ million users.
Twitter retorts that Musk’s concerns about bots are a pretext to get out of a deal in which the richest person in the world would develop buyer’s remorse.
Both sides are preparing for an October trial of Twitter’s lawsuit to force Musk to consume the deal.
Delaware Chancellery Judge Kathaleen St. Jude McCormick approved Wednesday’s offer to add Zatko’s allegations to his counterclaims. But she denied her offer to delay the trial.
The billionaire supports Zatko raised concerns on the number of bots incorporated into Twitter’s customer base along with allegations of permissive cybersecurity and privacy issues before being fired from the social media platform.
Musk argues that Zatko’s claims reinforce his arguments that he legitimately canceled the deal.
During their discussion with McCormick, Twitter’s lawyers targeted Zatko’s credibility, dismissing his complaints as motivated to harm the company he was fired from and not credible.
Spiro defended Zatko by saying that the whistleblower didn’t just take his money and left his Twitter problems behind. Instead, he turned to Congress and regulators with complaints about him.
Zatko is expected to testify before a Senate committee next week and has been sued for testifying in the Twitter lawsuit as well.
“The problem is that they paid him $ 7 million,” Spiro told the judge.
“The problem is, if he really wanted the money, then how come he still does it if he doesn’t want justice too.”