Elon Musk and Twitter face San Francisco city probe over headquarters

In an aerial view, a modified company sign is posted on the exterior of the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco, April 10, 2023.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Elon Musk and X Corp. — the Musk-backed parent company of social media platform Twitter — face an investigation over building code violations at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters on Market Street, according to online public records with the county’s Department of Building Inspection.

The probe, which was previously reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, follows a lawsuit filed May 16 in Delaware court by six former Twitter employees, who allege Musk’s “transition team” knowingly and repeatedly ordered them to break local and federal laws, including by making unsafe modifications to the company’s office space.

The lawsuit alleges under Musk’s management, X Corp. directed employees to turn rooms in the San Francisco headquarters office into “hotel rooms,” while lying to inspectors and their landlord they were just “temporary rest spaces” with some comfortable furniture added and no substantive or structural changes.

The lawsuit says one employee was told to place locks on the unauthorized “hotel room” doors that did not meet a California code which “requires locks that automatically disengage when the building’s fire suppression systems are triggered.”

The ex-Twitter employee said in the complaint Musk’s transition team repeatedly told them “compliant locks were too expensive” and instructed them instead to “immediately install cheaper locks that were not compliant with life safety and egress codes.”

The employee quit rather than break that law, their attorneys noted in the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges Musk-led Twitter failed to pay the employees severance, back pay and benefits they were owed, and discriminated against some senior employees on the basis of age, gender and sexual orientation when it decided to terminate them.

Additionally, the lawsuit said Musk and members of his transition team, namely Boring Company executive Steve Davis, ordered employees involved in the management of real estate to slash costs by $500 million as quickly as they could. In the drive to cut costs, the Musk transition team told employees to simply refuse to pay landlords who were owed rent by the company.

When informed of the risks of termination fees for certain leases, Davis told Twitter senior employees, “Well, we just won’t pay those. We just won’t pay landlords,” adding, “we just won’t pay rent,” the complaint says.

Meanwhile, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is actively courting Musk to move Twitter headquarters to his jurisdiction. On Friday, he wrote on Twitter, “let’s get them to MIA asap.”

CNBC reached out to Twitter for further information and the company responded with an automated response that included a poop emoji but no comment.

A representative for the Department of Building Inspection in San Francisco did not immediately respond to a request for further information.

Read the lawsuit here.

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