An oil executive has been accused of impersonating Elon Musk in an email, in an attempt to extract company secrets from Musk’s Tesla corporation. He has argued the lawsuit should be thrown out, on the basis that the email was ‘preposterous and grammatically deficient’, and not credible. The executive, Todd Katz, is a former Chief Financial officer for Quest Integrity, a company that provides services to oil companies including ExxonMobil, BP, Shell, and Chevron.
The lawsuit, filed in September, claimed that Katz had created an email account, firstname.lastname@example.org, in order to impersonate Elon Musk to extract financial information from Jason Wheeler, Tesla’s chief financial officer. The lawsuit accuses Katz of sending an email on August 3rd, requesting detailed information about Tesla’s second-quarter finances.
The email read:
“why you so cautious w Q3/4 gm guidance on call? also what are your thoughts on disclosing M3 res#? Pros/cons from ir pov? what is your best guess as to where we actually come in on q3/4 deliverables. honest guess? no bs. thx 4 hard work prepping 4 today
Wheeler did not respond to the email, and Tesla’s ensuing investigation soon traced the email to Quest Integrity, and to Katz specifically, who promptly resigned from his position at the company. Earlier this week, Katz filed an objection to the lawsuit, arguing that their reaction had been “over-the-top,” claiming that they had hacked into his Twitter account to identify Katz. Instead of objecting that he did not send the email in question, Katz’s objection centers around its argument that “nobody who received this preposterous and grammatically deficient email ever believed it really came from Elon Musk.” Since the email was not credible, the objection claims that there was no direct injury to Tesla.
“It is clear that the email allegedly received by CFO Wheeler on August 3, 2016 was goofy, grammatically deficient communication that was not a ‘credible’ impersonation of Elon Musk in any way,” reads the objection. It then goes on to argue that Tesla’s lawsuit is a “heavy-handed attempt to intimidate and silence Mr. Katz, a Tesla critic.”
Katz has also filed a cross-complaint accusing Tesla of illegally accessing his Twitter account, causing him damages “including loss of earnings and damage to reputation”.
A spokeswoman from Tesla said in a statement:
“The oil executive Todd Katz is perfectly capable of embarrassing himself with no help from Tesla. We did not even know that the Twitter pseudonym in question belonged to Mr. Katz. What we are most interested in discovering is what people or organizations collaborated with Mr. Katz in his attempt to gain information illegally from Tesla and who or what companies may have paid him to do so. That is of great concern to us and many members of the public.”