Elon Musk Terminates $44 Billion Deal to Buy Twitter, Says Company in Breach of Agreement

Tech entrepreneur Elon Musk has terminated his bid to buy Twitter in a $44 billion deal, accusing the company of breaching their agreement.

Tesla CEO Musk said today in an SEC filing that Twitter has refused to provide requested data on fake and spam accounts since accepting his offer.

“Based on the foregoing refusal to provide information that Mr. Musk has been requesting since May 9, 2022, Twitter is in breach of Sections 6.4 and 6.11 of the Merger Agreement.”

The SEC Filing says: “We refer to (i) the Agreement and Plan of Merger by and among X Holdings I, Inc., X Holdings II, Inc. and Twitter, Inc. dated as of April 25, 2022 (the “Merger Agreement”) and (ii) our letter to you dated as of June 6, 2022 (the “June 6 Letter”). As further described below, Mr. Musk is terminating the Merger Agreement because Twitter is in material breach of multiple provisions of that Agreement, appears to have made false and misleading representations upon which Mr. Musk relied when entering into the Merger Agreement, and is likely to suffer a Company Material Adverse Effect (as that term is defined in the Merger Agreement).

While Section 6.4 of the Merger Agreement requires Twitter to provide Mr. Musk and his advisors all data and information that Mr. Musk requests “for any reasonable business purpose related to the consummation of the transaction,” Twitter has not complied with its contractual obligations. For nearly two months, Mr. Musk has sought the data and information necessary to “make an independent assessment of the prevalence of fake or spam accounts on Twitter’s platform” (our letter to you dated May 25, 2022 (the “May 25 Letter”)). This information is fundamental to Twitter’s business and financial performance and is necessary to consummate the transactions contemplated by the Merger Agreement because it is needed to ensure Twitter’s satisfaction of the conditions to closing, to facilitate Mr. Musk’s financing and financial planning for the transaction, and to engage in transition planning for the business.

Twitter has failed or refused to provide this information. Sometimes Twitter has ignored Mr. Musk’s requests, sometimes it has rejected them for reasons that appear to be unjustified, and sometimes it has claimed to comply while giving Mr. Musk incomplete or unusable information.

Mr. Musk and his financial advisors at Morgan Stanley have been requesting critical information from Twitter as far back as May 9, 2022—and repeatedly since then—on the relationship between Twitter’s disclosed mDAU figures and the prevalence of false or spam accounts on the platform.

If there were ever any doubt as to the nature of these information requests, the May 25 Letter made clear that Mr. Musk’s goal was to understand how many of Twitter’s claimed mDAUs were, in fact, fake or spam accounts.

That letter noted that “Items 1.03 to 1.13 of the diligence request list contain high-priority requests for enterprise data and other information intended to enable Mr. Musk and his advisors to make an independent assessment of the prevalence of fake or spam accounts on Twitter’s platform…” The letter then provided Twitter with a detailed list of requests to this effect.

Since then, Mr. Musk has provided numerous additional follow-up requests, all aimed at filling the gaps in the incomplete information that Twitter provided in response to his broad requests for information relating to Twitter’s reported mDAU counts and reported estimates of false and spam accounts.1 For example, in our letter to you dated June 29, 2022 (the “June 29 Letter”), we referenced Mr. Musk’s request in the May 25 Letter for “information that would allow him ‘to make an independent assessment of the prevalence of fake or spam accounts on Twitter’s platform.’”

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Because Twitter, by its own admission, provided only incomplete data that was not sufficient to perform such an independent assessment,2 the June 29 Letter “endeavored to be even more specific, and to reduce the burden of the [original] request,” by identifying a specific subset of high priority information, responsive to Mr. Musk’s prior requests, for Twitter to immediately make available.

Notwithstanding these repeated requests over the past two months, Twitter has still failed to provide much of the data and information responsive to Mr. Musk’s repeated requests, including, but not limited to:

Information related to Twitter’s process for auditing the inclusion of spam and fake accounts in mDAU.

In short, Twitter has not provided information that Mr. Musk has requested for nearly two months notwithstanding his repeated, detailed clarifications intended to simplify Twitter’s identification, collection, and disclosure of the most relevant information sought in Mr. Musk’s original requests.

While Twitter has provided some information, that information has come with strings attached, use limitations or other artificial formatting features, which has rendered some of the information minimally useful to Mr. Musk and his advisors. For example, when Twitter finally provided access to the eight developer “APIs” first explicitly requested by Mr. Musk in the May 25 Letter, those APIs contained a rate limit lower than what Twitter provides to its largest enterprise customers.

Twitter only offered to provide Mr. Musk with the same level of access as some of its customers after we explained that throttling the rate limit prevented Mr. Musk and his advisors from performing the analysis that he wished to conduct in any reasonable period of time.

Additionally, those APIs contained an artificial “cap” on the number of queries that Mr. Musk and his team can run regardless of the rate limit—an issue that initially prevented Mr. Musk and his advisors from completing an analysis of the data in any reasonable period of time. Mr. Musk raised this issue as soon as he became aware of it, in the first paragraph of the June 29 Letter: “we have just been informed by our data experts that Twitter has placed an artificial cap on the number of searches our experts can perform with this data, which is now preventing Mr. Musk and his team from doing their analysis.” That cap was not removed until July 6, after Mr. Musk demanded its removal for a second time.

Based on the foregoing refusal to provide information that Mr. Musk has been requesting since May 9, 2022, Twitter is in breach of Sections 6.4 and 6.11 of the Merger Agreement.

Despite public speculation on this point, Mr. Musk did not waive his right to review Twitter’s data and information simply because he chose not to seek this data and information before entering into the Merger Agreement.

In fact, he negotiated access and information rights within the Merger Agreement precisely so that he could review data and information that is important to Twitter’s business before financing and completing the transaction.

As Twitter has been on notice of its breach since at least June 6, 2022, any cure period afforded to Twitter under the Merger Agreement has now lapsed. Accordingly, Mr. Musk hereby exercises X Holdings I, Inc.’s right to terminate the Merger Agreement and abandon the transaction contemplated thereby, and this letter constitutes formal notice of X Holding I, Inc.’s termination of the Merger Agreement pursuant to Section 8.1(d)(i) thereof.

In addition to the foregoing, Twitter is in breach of the Merger Agreement because the Merger Agreement appears to contain materially inaccurate representations. Specifically, in the Merger Agreement, Twitter represented that no documents that Twitter filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission since January 1, 2022, included any “untrue statement of a material fact” (Section 4.6(a)).

Twitter has repeatedly made statements in such filings regarding the portion of its mDAUs that are false or spam, including statements that: “We have performed an internal review of a sample of accounts and estimate that the average of false or spam accounts during the first quarter of 2022 represented fewer than 5% of our mDAU during the quarter,” and “After we determine an account is spam, malicious automation, or fake, we stop counting it in our mDAU, or other related metrics.” Mr. Musk relied on this representation in the Merger Agreement (and Twitter’s numerous public statements regarding false and spam accounts in its publicly filed SEC documents) when agreeing to enter into the Merger Agreement. Mr. Musk has the right to seek rescission of the Merger Agreement in the event these material representations are determined to be false.

Although Twitter has not yet provided complete information to Mr. Musk that would enable him to do a complete and comprehensive review of spam and fake accounts on Twitter’s platform, he has been able to partially and preliminarily analyze the accuracy of Twitter’s disclosure regarding its mDAU. While this analysis remains ongoing, all indications suggest that several of Twitter’s public disclosures regarding its mDAUs are either false or materially misleading. First, although Twitter has consistently represented in securities filings that “fewer than 5%” of its mDAU are false or spam accounts, based on the information provided by Twitter to date, it appears that Twitter is dramatically understating the proportion of spam and false accounts represented in its mDAU count. Preliminary analysis by Mr. Musk’s advisors of the information provided by Twitter to date causes Mr. Musk to strongly believe that the proportion of false and spam accounts included in the reported mDAU count is wildly higher than 5%.

Second, Twitter’s disclosure that it ceases to count fake or spam users in its mDAU when it determines that those users are fake appears to be false. Instead, we understand, based on Twitter’s representations during a June 30, 2022 call with us, that Twitter includes accounts that have been suspended—and thus are known to be fake or spam—in its quarterly mDAU count even when it is aware that the suspended accounts were included in mDAU for that quarter. Last, Twitter has represented that it is “continually seeking to improve our ability to estimate the total number of spam accounts and eliminate them from the calculation of our mDAU…” But, Twitter’s process for calculating its mDAU, and the percentage of mDAU comprised of non-monetizable spam accounts, appears to be arbitrary and ad hoc. Disclosing that Twitter has a reasoned process for calculating mDAU when the opposite is true would be false and misleading.

Twitter’s representation in the Merger Agreement regarding the accuracy of its SEC disclosures relating to false and spam accounts may have also caused, or is reasonably likely to result in, a Company Material Adverse Effect, which may form an additional basis for terminating the Merger Agreement.

While Mr. Musk and his advisors continue to investigate the exact nature and extent of this event, Mr. Musk has reason to believe that the true number of false or spam accounts on Twitter’s platform is substantially higher than the amount of less than 5% represented by Twitter in its SEC filings. Twitter’s true mDAU count is a key component of the company’s business, given that approximately 90% of its revenue comes from advertisements. For this reason, to the extent that Twitter has underrepresented the number of false or spam accounts on its platform, that may constitute a Company Material Adverse Effect under Section 7.2(b)(i) of the Merger Agreement.

Mr. Musk is also examining the company’s recent financial performance and revised outlook, and is considering whether the company’s declining business prospects and financial outlook constitute a Company Material Adverse Effect giving Mr. Musk a separate and distinct basis for terminating the Merger Agreement.

Finally, Twitter also did not comply with its obligations under Section 6.1 of the Merger Agreement to seek and obtain consent before deviating from its obligation to conduct its business in the ordinary course and “preserve substantially intact the material components of its current business organization.”

Twitter’s conduct in firing two key, high-ranking employees, its Revenue Product Lead and the General Manager of Consumer, as well as announcing on July 7 that it was laying off a third of its talent acquisition team, implicates the ordinary course provision.

Twitter has also instituted a general hiring freeze which extends even to reconsideration of outstanding job offers. Moreover, three executives have resigned from Twitter since the Merger Agreement was signed: the Head of Data Science, the Vice President of Twitter Service, and a Vice President of Product Management for Health, Conversation, and Growth. The Company has not received Parent’s consent for changes in the conduct of its business, including for the specific changes listed above. The Company’s actions therefore constitute a material breach of Section 6.1 of the Merger Agreement.

Accordingly, for all of these reasons, Mr. Musk hereby exercises X Holdings I, Inc.’s right to terminate the Merger Agreement and abandon the transaction contemplated thereby, and this letter constitutes formal notice of X Holding I, Inc.’s termination of the Merger Agreement pursuant to Section 8.1(d)(i) thereof,” the filing says.

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By David Hawkins

David Hawkins is a writer who specializes in political commentary and world affairs. He's been writing professionally since 2014.

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