A Muskful of dollars | Marcel Strigberger

By Marcel Strigberger

Law360 Canada (June 10, 2022, 2:38 PM EDT) --
Marcel Strigberger
We’ll talk about that one-billion-dollar forfeiture later.

Meanwhile, Elon Musk, likely the richest man in the world, is into a dispute with Twitter, which he is in the course of acquiring. He seems, however, to have put a hold on the $44-billion deal as he is not happy about the many spam and fake accounts, alleging that there is a preponderance of Twitter users who are robots. He claims the percentage of bots is about 20 per cent whereas Twitter insists the number is around five per cent. I think what really got Elon’s back up recently was when he received a notice on his Twitter account that he was being followed by R2-D2. Beep beep.

My first reaction is why would anybody who has $44 billion to spare even want to risk any potential headaches and complications buying Twitter? If it were me I would just keep it in the bank. Presumably he can get at least one per cent on a savings account. One per cent on $44 billion by my calculations works out to $440 million per year. This computes to $11.87 per second, which is $1,205,479 per day. With that kind of income one can buy a top-of-the-line Tesla. No problem getting financing.

Twitter says it is co-operating fully with Musk in sharing all pertinent information. The Musk camp, however, says that Twitter is confusing and obfuscating the issue. Musk’s lawyers recently made further queries of Twitter about the large robot presence, and they were told “No way. If you don’t believe us, just ask Siri.”

I am actually curious just how Musk’s lawyers landed a client who is worth over $219 billion. (I know this number is accurate; I asked Siri).

Just how does a law firm attract the business of the richest man in the world? I get the feeling it took more than one of those ads on the back of a transit bus. Maybe not. Maybe Elon Musk was walking casually along the street when he noticed a transit bus ad reading something like, “You don’t pay a dime until we win. Billionaire clients welcome.” Obviously, something worked.

I suppose with a client like Musk, the firm does not need other clients. I can see some car accident victim with a neck collar arriving at reception and the receptionist points to a large sign bearing the image of Yosemite Sam, with a caption reading, “Scram!”

In 40 plus years of practice I never came close to landing a super-rich client. My practice for the most part consisted of criminals on legal aid certificates, spouses whose major asset was their mortgaged matrimonial home and that guy who would walk into Elon Musk’s lawyer’s office wearing that neck collar.

And now for that one-billion-dollar forfeiture, as promised. Apparently if Musk backs out of the deal, he has to pay Twitter a penalty of $1 billion. I presume we are talking American dollars. For you and me that’s about one billion three hundred million loonies. The currency conversion is a dealbreaker.

This penalty could be disturbing to Musk. I recently booked a cruise and if I back out now, I forfeit about $1,200. I know exactly how Musk would feel. I empathize. I wonder how he would handle my cruise deposit forfeiture. Actually if he would invest that $44 billion in the bank as I suggest, at $11.87/second he would likely earn this $1,200 sum in about 101.1 seconds. Or maybe to spite the cruise company and save the deposit, he would just buy the ship. Just my thought on economics.

My only likely out to get my deposit back would be if the cruise line cancels the cruise because of COVID. I doubt his contract with Twitter has a COVID escape clause. After all it is unlikely COVID would hit those robots. They’re probably vaccinated. 

Meanwhile, the business world is holding its breath to see how this all plays out. Will the deal collapse? How will we know? I imagine Twitter will probably tweet it. It will do so in less than 280 characters.

“Hi Elon. Given your failure to consummate the agreement on the unfounded ground that we are overrun with robots, we are taking your billion dollars. Thanx for your understanding. Have a nice day.”



Marcel Strigberger retired from his Greater Toronto Area litigation practice and continues the more serious business of humorous author and speaker. His book Boomers, Zoomers, and Other Oomers: A Boomer-biased Irreverent Perspective on Aging is now available in paper and e-book versions where books are sold. Visit www.marcelshumour.com. Follow him @MarcelsHumour.

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