Elon Musk didn’t deceive investors with his 2018 Tesla tweets, a jury rules : NPR
SAN FRANCISCO — A jury on Friday decided that Elon Musk did not mislead investors with his 2018 tweets about electric car maker Tesla.
The nine-jury verdict was reached after less than two hours of deliberation after a three-week trial and represents a major vindication for Musk.
The trial pitted Tesla investors represented in a class-action lawsuit against Musk, the CEO of both the electric car maker and the Twitter service he bought for $44 billion. a few months ago.
In 2018, Musk tweeted that he had enough funding to take Tesla private even though it turned out he hadn’t received a firm commitment for a rescinded deal that could cost between $20 billion and $1 billion. 70 billion dollars to make.
Musk’s integrity was threatened at trial as well as part of his fortune that made him one of the richest people in the world. He could have been hit with a multi-billion dollar damages bill if the jury had found him to be liable for 2018 tweets that were found false by the presiding judge. truth.
Earlier on Friday, Musk sat sternly in court, while he had just been vilified as a wealthy narcissist whose reckless behavior risked causing “chaos” and was praised. was a visionary looking for the “little guy” in closing the trial’s arguments.
The trial revolved around whether Musk’s tweets in 2018 misled Tesla shareholders, directing them in a direction they say has cost them billions of dollars. The civil lawsuit focuses on two tweets Musk posted on August 7, 2018 about the Tesla acquisition that never happened.
In the first tweet, posted shortly before boarding his private jet, Musk claimed that he had “financial assurance” to take Tesla private. Hours later, Musk sent out another tweet suggesting a deal was imminent.
The tweets sent Twitter’s stock soaring during the 10-day period covered by the lawsuit before falling back after Musk walked away from a deal he never had a firm financial commitment to, based on the evidence presented during the three-week trial.
Musk’s decision to appear in the final argument – although his presence was not necessary – underscores how important the trial’s outcome is to him.
Nicholas Porritt, an attorney for Tesla shareholders, called on the jury to reprimand Musk for his “loose relationship with the truth.”
“Our society is based on rules,” says Porritt. “We need rules to save us from chaos. The rules should apply to Elon Musk like everyone else.”
Alex Spiro, Musk’s attorney, admitted the 2018 tweets were “technically incorrect.” But he told the jury, “Just because it’s a bad tweet doesn’t mean it’s a scam.”
US District Judge Edward Chen, who presided over the trial, decided last year that Musk’s 2018 tweets were false and directed the jury to view them that way.
During the roughly eight hours before the trial, Musk asserted that he believed he had arranged funds from the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund to take Tesla private after eight years as a public company. He defended his first August 2018 tweet as being in good faith and aimed to ensure that all Tesla investors know that the automaker could be on the way to closing. cease operations as a public company.
“I have no ill motives,” Musk testified. “My intention is to do the right thing for all shareholders.”
Spiro repeated that theme in his final argument.
“He’s trying to appeal to retail shareholders, parent company and pop, he’s small and doesn’t gain more power for himself,” Spiro said.
Meanwhile, Porritt scoffed at the notion that Musk might have concluded he had a firm commitment after a 45-minute meeting at the Tesla factory on July 31, 2018, with Yasir al-Rumayyan, Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund governor, as there were no written documents.
A text message al-Rumayyan sent later in August as part of the trial evidence also indicated that the Saudi foundation was only interested in learning more about Musk’s proposal to privatize Tesla in January. At the time the company was valued at about $60 billion.
“Clearly a $60 billion funding pledge has been reached and no one has written a word,” said Porritt, asserting that the amount is larger than the combined economic output of Nicaragua and Honduras. and El Salvador.
Pollitt added: “Elon Musk clearly thinks it’s easier to get billions of dollars in funding than a car loan or mortgage.”
However, Spiro pointed to Musk’s track record helping to found and run a list of companies that include PayPal, a pioneer in digital payments, and rocket ship maker SpaceX, in addition to Tesla. The Austin, Texas-based automaker is now worth nearly $600 billion, despite a steep drop in stock prices last year due to concerns that Musk’s acquisition of Twitter would distract him from Tesla.
Recalling Musk’s roots as a South African immigrant who came to Silicon Valley to found revolutionary technology companies, Spiro describes his clients “as the type of person who believes the impossible is possible. “
Porritt changed Musk’s mind during his presentation. “For Elon Musk, if he believes it, or just thinks about it, it’s true.”
In his concluding remarks, Porritt told jurors their decision would be based on an answer to one question: “Do the rules apply to everyone or can Elon Musk do it? whatever he wants and not face the consequences?”