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01 Sep

Florida Governor DeSantis Claims Win Against E.S.G.

More signs of economic pain ahead. Macy’s lowered its full-year sales outlook, citing a continuing glut of unsold goods as consumers pull back from shopping. Meanwhile, the White House said it expected slower economic growth and higher inflation than previously forecast, citing an Omicron-fueled coronavirus wave and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Twitter’s latest headache goes beyond a sinking stock price. The company made false and misleading comments about its security practices and potentially violated its 2011 consent decree with the F.T.C., Peiter Zatko, a former head of Twitter security, said in a whistle-blower complaint. The decision to send the complaint and supporting documents to the S.E.C., the Justice Department and the F.T.C. indicates that Zatko, who goes by the nickname Mudge, is seeking a wide range of regulatory action. What does this mean for Elon Musk’s $44 billion deal to buy Twitter?

Zatko claims that Twitter is misleading consumers about the steps it takes to protect their information and honor their privacy choices, running afoul of the F.T.C. agreement. In short, Twitter never sufficiently disclosed the weakness of its security and systems, he claims. “Years of regulatory filings in multiple countries were misleading, at best,” he said. (In May, the F.T.C. and the Justice Department fined Twitter $150 million in a privacy settlement.)

Twitter will probably face new heat. “There’s a near certainty that this will provoke a careful review by the Federal Trade Commission, maybe other public agencies,” Bill Kovacic, a former F.T.C. chair, told DealBook. The agency has gotten tough on Big Tech in recent years, punishing companies for violating consent decrees — notably by lodging a $5 billion fine against Facebook in 2019. The S.E.C. is also likely to take a close look, said Howard Fischer, a former senior trial counsel at the agency. Last year, the S.E.C. fined companies over insufficient cybersecurity disclosures, including the educational publisher Pearson.

What it means for Musk. Mudge and Musk ostensibly agree on just one point: Twitter is not incentivized to police its platform for spam. Their point of disagreement is more striking when it comes to bots. In his lawsuit seeking to free him from being forced to buy the company, Musk says that Twitter’s central disclosure, which states that approximately 5 percent of its active user base, or mDAU, consists of bots, is materially misleading. In contrast, Zatko says don’t put much stock in Twitter’s bot calculation, which he says is inherently flawed. (That said, he concludes the 5 percent figure is correct.)

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