A former Twitter security executive sued Elon Musk and X Corp. yesterday, alleging that he was unlawfully fired for objecting to steep budget cuts implemented shortly after Musk bought the social network.
Alan Rosa, who was fired on December 6, 2022, “was Head of Global Information Technology and Information Security and worked remotely for Twitter performing the majority of his job duties from his home in New Jersey,” said the lawsuit filed in US District Court for the District of New Jersey. He also sometimes worked in Twitter’s New York and California offices.
Rosa was required to resolve his claims through arbitration and says that he filed a demand for arbitration in April 2023 and paid his arbitration filing fee. Rosa alleges that “Twitter has refused to pay its portion of the arbitration fees despite being ordered by JAMS [Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services] to do so.”
“On August 21, 2023, September 20, 203 [sic], and December 4, 20023 [sic], JAMS advised the parties that if the fee is not paid, the file will be closed,” Rosa’s lawsuit said. “Defendants never responded to these emails and never paid their portion of the arbitration fee.”
After Musk’s mass layoffs, Twitter won a court order forcing employees who sued the company to mediate their claims in arbitration instead. Twitter later refused to pay its arbitration costs for those employees but eventually agreed to settlement talks on arbitration claims from about 2,000 laid-off employees.
Rosa is suing Twitter on his own, alleging that he should have been paid a $200,000 performance bonus in February 2023 and a vested equity compensation of nearly $364,000.
Exec warned cuts would hamper FTC compliance
Rosa became a Twitter employee in January 2022, and Musk bought the company on October 27 that year. When Musk began laying off half of Twitter’s workforce, Rosa was concerned about the cuts affecting Twitter’s compliance with a 2022 consent decree issued by the Federal Trade Commission.
“The Twitter FTC Consent Decree required Twitter to establish, implement, and maintain a comprehensive privacy and information security program… Musk was consistently dismissive of the Twitter FTC Consent Decree and Twitter’s obligations under it,” the lawsuit said.
The FTC is currently investigating whether the Musk-owned social network, now officially called X, is complying with the settlement’s privacy and security requirements.
In addition to Musk and X, Rosa’s lawsuit names Steve Davis as a defendant. Davis was hired by Musk as a “high-level advisor,” the lawsuit said.
“Davis, like Musk, was dismissive of the Twitter FTC Consent Decree and began cutting Twitter’s products and services that supported and complied with the Twitter FTC Consent Decree,” the lawsuit said, continuing:
For example, Davis did not want to pay for vulnerability management software and he resisted paying for the Company’s ethical hacking program called “HackerOne.” Both programs were necessary for Twitter to comply with the Twitter FTC Consent Decree.
Plaintiff objected to these cuts as he had a reasonable belief that cutting these programs would prevent Twitter from complying with its obligations under the Twitter FTC Consent Decree Order.
Rosa says he also objected to the shutdown of a Salesforce program that was needed to share information with law enforcement agencies worldwide and warned that Twitter would be unable to comply with Europe’s Digital Service Act.
Twitter gave “no reason” for firing
Later, on December 1, 2022, Davis allegedly directed Rosa “to cut the physical security budget by an additional 50 percent by midnight.”
“The physical building, whose security he had to immediately cut, stored over 800 laptops and other electronic devices that were subject to litigation holds, per Court Orders, which required the Company to ensure that the physical data on the laptops and other electronic devices in the building were preserved and were not removed, destroyed, or altered in any way,” the lawsuit said.
Rosa says he also objected on the grounds that reducing physical security “posed a substantial and specific danger to public health and/or safety because there were numerous protestors at the physical building location.”
A few hours after Rosa objected, “Davis called Plaintiff, advised him that he was removing Plaintiff’s oversight of the physical security team, and abruptly hung up the phone on Plaintiff,” the lawsuit said. Rosa says he was fired five days later.
“Twitter provided no reason for Plaintiff’s termination,” Rosa alleges. “Plaintiff was terminated in retaliation for objecting to the activities of Defendants that the Plaintiff reasonably believed to be unlawful.”
Rosa says that Twitter initially told him he would receive a severance package along with his bonus and vesting compensation, but it later went back on that promise. Twitter claimed his “severance package was being put on hold pending an investigation regarding his conduct during his employment,” the lawsuit said.
“Plaintiff was never advised as to the nature of, nor the outcome of the investigation, nor was he interviewed regarding same, despite his many inquiries to the Company,” the lawsuit said, calling it a “sham investigation.”
Rosa’s lawsuit alleges breach of contract, wrongful termination, unlawful termination under the New Jersey Conscientious Employee Protection Act, retaliation, violations of New York and California labor laws, and violation of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. Rosa wants a jury trial and is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, and emotional distress damages.