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Former Twitter Execs Sue Musk for Alleged Severance Payment Evasion

ByHuey Yee Ong

Mar 7, 2024
Former Twitter Execs Sue Musk Sue Musk for Alleged Severance Payment Evasion

Former Twitter Execs Sue Musk for Alleged Severance Payment Evasion

A group of former Twitter executives has initiated a lawsuit against Elon Musk and X Corp., the entity formerly known as Twitter, seeking over $128 million in unpaid severance. This litigation, lodged in the Northern District of California under the case name Agrawal et al v. Musk et al, marks a major moment following the rocky period after Musk took over the big social media company.

Background of the Dispute

The lawsuit revolves around allegations from former top Twitter executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, head of legal Vijaya Gadde, and General Counsel Sean Edgett, that Elon Musk, following his takeover, embarked on a systematic campaign to renege on previously agreed-upon severance packages. This dispute traces back to Musk’s high-profile acquisition of Twitter for $44 billion, a deal that subsequently transformed the platform and its operational ethos, rebranding it as X Corp.

The nature of the allegations are as below:

  • Unpaid Severance: The former Twitter executives, including CEO Parag Agrawal, CFO Ned Segal, head of legal Vijaya Gadde, and General Counsel Sean Edgett, allege that Elon Musk failed to honor severance packages that were agreed upon prior to his acquisition of Twitter, now known as X Corp.
  • Personal Vendettas: The plaintiffs argue that Musk’s refusal to pay severance was not merely a business decision but was influenced by personal vendettas against them, especially since they played pivotal roles during the acquisition negotiations.
  • Pattern of Defaulting on Payments: Beyond the severance dispute, the lawsuit outlines a broader pattern of financial obligation avoidance under Musk’s leadership, including:
    • Employees: Allegations of unpaid severance to a wider pool of former employees.
    • Landlords: Reports of X Corp. stopping payments for office spaces, leading to lawsuits and evictions.
    • Vendors: Over 25 lawsuits filed against X Corp. by various vendors and service providers for nonpayment.
  • Public Statements: The lawsuit references Musk’s alleged public statements, including a threat to pursue the executives “till the day they die,” as evidence of his personal animosity and intent to renege on severance agreements.

Broader Implications and Other Lawsuits

The plaintiffs contend that Musk’s actions post-acquisition were not merely about streamlining operations or enforcing a new strategic direction. They said Musk had personal grudges against the executives who were in charge during the acquisition negotiations. They argue that Musk, in an attempt to offset some of the financial outlays of the acquisition, deliberately chose not to honor clear contractual commitments related to severance payments.

Compounding these allegations, the lawsuit paints a broader picture of Musk’s stewardship of X Corp., suggesting a pattern of financial obligations being disregarded. The legal complaint alleges that under Musk’s leadership, X Corp. hasn’t been paying its bills to employees, landlords, and others stakeholders. This pattern is purportedly evidenced by more than 25 vendor nonpayment lawsuits filed against the company, covering a range of aggrieved parties from software and service providers to landlords.

This lawsuit is not an isolated incident but part of a series of legal challenges Musk faces, reflecting a climate of discontent among former employees and associates in the wake of the Twitter acquisition. Notably, it follows the breakdown of settlement talks in a related case in Delaware, where $500 million in unpaid severance to former Twitter managers and engineers remains in dispute.

The situation also sheds light on the problems within Musk’s company, X Corp. Musk’s explicit criticism of specific executives, especially Vijaya Gadde, over content moderation decisions, has been well-documented, leading to instances of online harassment following Musk’s public disparagements.

The lawsuit articulates that Musk’s termination letters to the executives accused them of “gross negligence” and “willful misconduct,” charges they assert Musk has failed to substantiate with evidence. They depict Musk’s approach as one of leveraging his financial resources to evade fulfilling financial commitments, forcing those he owes into protracted and costly legal battles.

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Featured Image courtesy of Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.