Musk's attorney, Dean Kristy, argued in a motion filed Thursday in a U.S. district court that the proposed subpoena of Canadian musician Grimes, who was dating Musk in August when he tweeted that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share, is an effort to "sensationalize these proceedings" rather than a legitimate fact-finding mission.
A group of investors is suing Tesla and Musk related to the tweet. The plaintiffs are also proposing subpoenas of rapper Azealia Banks, who alleged in Instagram posts that Musk was using drugs at the time, and various media outlets that interviewed Banks or Musk, like Business Insider and The New York Times.
"Plaintiffs did not bother to contact any of the five non-parties it intends to subpoena to find out if they even have any relevant information," Kristy argues in the motion. "None of the third parties ever worked for Tesla or Mr. Musk, or is alleged to have had any involvement in his tweets or in his evaluation of a potential go-private transaction."
The Securities and Exchange Commission revealed in its own lawsuit against Musk — settled in September and resulting in $40 million in total fines — that Musk chose his proposed buyout price of $420 because he thought Grimes, whose real name is Claire Elise Boucher, would find it funny.
Banks is a friend of Grimes' and said in Instagram posts that she stayed at Musk's house in the days after he sent the tweet. She later made allegations about his drug use and motivations on Instagram.
"Ms. Boucher and Ms. Banks were in close contact with Mr. Musk before and after the tweet at issue and are believed to be in possession of relevant evidence concerning Mr. Musk's motives," said Eduard Korsinsky of Levi & Korsinsky, the firm representing the plaintiffs, in a statement to CNBC. "Granting the motion would allow the plaintiffs to preserve this evidence and help provide a fair opportunity to take discovery for all parties."
Kristy, citing news articles about the incident and rapper, says in the court filing:
She is a "veteran of long and nonsensical beefs [having] feuded with everyone from Sarah Palin to Nick Cannon"; she "remains a Twitter villain even after being banned from the service"; she went on a rant on Instagram "that began as a delirious critique of colonial wealth and racial privilege, [and] became a vaguely eugenicist denigration of Musk as a caveman"; and she "has a history of making bold and sometimes unverified claims," including against Beyonce, MonetX (a rival) and Russell Crowe. Published reports also indicate that Ms. Banks apparently claims to have offered Twitter's CEO a form of "protection" from ISIS. Despite reports that completely undermine her credibility, plaintiff calls her a "key source of information in this matter" – which if anything underscores how weak plaintiff's case is – based entirely on her claim that she was present in Mr. Musk's home to visit Ms. Boucher from August 10-12 (well after the August 7 tweets) and supposedly observed Mr. Musk, even though he flatly denies ever meeting her.
The plaintiffs are also seeking subpoenas of The New York Times, Business Insider and Gizmodo related to articles the outlets published in the weeks after Musk's tweet.
The case is numbered 3:18-cv-04865-EMC in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.