Elon Musk’s lawyer: Twitter employees aren’t personally at risk over its liabilities to the FTC

Alex Spiro, leader of Elon Musk’s team of attorneys, leaves the US District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles on December 6th, 2019.
Alex Spiro, leader of Elon Musk’s team of attorneys, leaves the US District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles on December 6th, 2019. | Image: APU GOMES/AFP via Getty Images

Elon Musk’s lawyer Alex Spiro, who worked for months arguing Musk should be allowed to break his agreement to buy Twitter for $44 billion, is now reassuring Twitter employees that they will not be personally liable if the company violates a 20-year FTC consent decree, according to an email obtained by The Verge.

As employees have had to reckon with massive layoffs and general instability at the company, there have been fears that Twitter staffers working on security and privacy could be in some legal danger for potential violations of the decree.

A company lawyer even suggested in Twitter’s Slack that employees investigate whistleblower protections. As they wrote in a Slack message:

I have heard another leader in the Legal department say that because of the tight SLA’s (of two weeks?!) between product inception > launch, Legal will “have to shift the burden to engineers” to self-certify compliance with FTC requirements and other laws. This will put huge amount of personal, professional and legal risk onto engineers: I anticipate that all of you will be pressured by management into pushing out changes that will likely lead to major incidents.

The only party to the decree is Twitter — not individuals who work at Twitter,” Spiro wrote in his email sent Thursday evening. “It is Twitter itself (not individual employees) who is a party and therefore only Twitter the company that could be liable.” Any circumstances outside the boundaries of the decree or from authorities other than the FTC were not mentioned.

Concerns around who might be liable have been amplified due to a few factors. The Twitter lawyer wrote that the FTC could fine Twitter billions of dollars for violating the order, and following the conviction of former Uber security chief Joseph Sullivan, who was found guilty on a charge of obstruction of justice and one for misprision for covering up a massive data breach in 2016, employees may be more worried than usual.

And now that Twitter’s chief privacy officer, chief information security officer, and chief compliance officer have all resigned (former general counsel Sean Edgett was among the executives fired on Musk’s first day as owner), adhering to the consent decree could be much more difficult for the company.

Spiro argues that individual employees will not be on the hook. “I understand that there have been employees at Twitter who do not even work on the FTC matter commenting that they could [go] to jail if we were not in compliance — that is simply not how this works,” Spiro wrote. “It is the company’s obligation. It is the company’s burden. It is the company’s liability.”

Here is the full email from Alex Spiro, sent to Musk and a number of Twitter employees:

Elon — questions have arisen today regarding the consent decree in effect at the time you took over the company.

We have our first upcoming compliance check with the FTC since taking over and we will handle it.

The only party to the decree is Twitter — not individuals who work at Twitter. It is Twitter itself (not individual employees) who is a party and therefore only Twitter the company that could be liable.

I understand that there have been employees at Twitter who do not even work on the FTC matter commenting that they could [go] to jail if we were not in compliance — that is simply not how this works. It is the company’s obligation. It is the company’s burden. It is the company’s liability.

We spoke to the FTC today about our continuing obligations and have a constructive ongoing dialogue.

We will of course remain in compliance with the consent decree and the legal department is handling it and happy to answer any questions.

Thanks

Alex



Source: The Verge

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