Musk denies reports he is firing Twitter employees in attempt to avoid payouts

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FILE PHOTO: Illustration shows Elon Musk's account and Twitter logo

(Reuters) – Twitter’s new owner Elon Musk has denied a New York Times report about laying off Twitter employees at a date earlier than Nov. 1 to avoid stock grants due on the day.

In a response to a Twitter user asking about the layoffs, Musk tweeted: “This is false.”

The New York Times reported on Saturday that Musk has ordered job cuts across the company, with some teams to be trimmed more than others and that layoffs would take place before Nov. 1 date, when employees were scheduled to receive stock grants as part of their compensation.

Citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, the Times reported the cuts could begin as soon as Saturday.

According to media reports on Saturday, Musk fired top executives in an effort to avoid hefty severance payouts, while lining up other layoffs as soon as Saturday.

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Musk fired Twitter Chief Executive Parag Agrawal, Chief Financial Officer Ned Segal and legal affairs and policy chief Vijaya Gadde on completion of a high-profile $44 billion buyout of the social media platform on Thursday, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

He had accused them of misleading him and Twitter investors over the number of fake accounts on the platform. According to research firm Equilar, the executives stood to receive separation payouts totaling some $122 million.

Citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, The Information reported that Elon Musk terminated four top Twitter executives, including Agrawal and Segal “for cause,” in an apparent effort to avoid severance pay and unvested stock awards.

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In a tweet on Saturday LightShed analyst Rich Greenfield said Musk fired top Twitter execs “for cause,” preventing their unvested stock from vesting as part of a change of control.

Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters’ request for comment.

Reuters wasn’t immediately able to contact the fired executives.

Director of research at Equilar Courtney Yu told Reuters on Friday that the fired executives “should be getting these (severance) payments unless Elon Musk had cause for termination, with cause in these cases usually being that they broke the law or violated company policy.”

(Reporting by Jaiveer Singh Shekhawat and Juby Babu in Bengaluru; Editing by William Mallard, Kenneth Maxwell and Daniel Wallis)

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