Elon Musk defends himself in court against ‘outrageous’ charges over 2018 tweets

published on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 at 02:00

Elon Musk tried to show in court Monday that his famous tweets in 2018, about his desire to take Tesla off the stock market, were not misleading or deceptive, contrary to accusations by investors who say they lost millions of dollars because of the billionaire.

The boss of Tesla – and of Twitter, since the end of October – assured that he “never” sought to deceive investors, and that the accusation of fraud is “scandalous”.

He caused a stir on August 7, 2018 by saying he wanted to withdraw his automotive group from the stock market at a price of 420 dollars per share, then by ensuring that the financing was “secure”.

“I’m not saying it’s over, I’m just saying I’m considering it, thinking about it. And I think the funding is secure,” Elon Musk said on the court stand. San Francisco where the trial is taking place.

Last week, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney, Nicholas Porritt, accused the executive of “lying” and being responsible for investors’ losses.

The stock jumped on the heels of highly unusual tweets (and Nasdaq temporarily suspended Tesla’s stock price), before falling in the following days. News articles later revealed that the boss had no funds at all.

Tesla remained listed on the stock exchange.

Through his questions, Nicholas Porritt sought to show that Elon Musk did not carry out the appropriate consultations, and did not have any of the necessary elements or authorities to make such a sensational announcement, especially on Twitter, and especially while the markets are open.

– “Mr. Tweet” –

The lawyer highlighted the bitter exchange on August 12, 2018 between the billionaire and Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the director of the Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which was “assigned” and “without hesitation” to finance the operation, according to Elon Musk.

“Funding isn’t really safe, is it?” Porritt asked.

Yasir Al-Rumayyan was “backpedaling”, replied the Tesla boss.

He assured that he has the possibility to sell his shares in his other flagship, SpaceX, “the most valuable unlisted company in the United States”.

“I hope it breaks my heart (to sell them), but I’ll do it if I have to,” he said, referring to how he had to part with Tesla shares to buy Twitter last year. .

Dressed in a dark suit, white shirt and tie, he seemed hesitant, unable to remember many emails and details, and often answering questions to repeat the messages he wanted to convey to the jury.

Until the patience of the investors’ lawyer runs out. “We spent a whole day together in Austin, do you remember Mr. Tweet?!”, Launched Nicholas Porritt, before correcting for “Mr. Musk”.

– “Karma” –

The prosecution also returned the price offered by Elon Musk, 420 dollars per share. In the United States, the numbers 4 and 20 together are associated with cannabis consumption. When the billionaire made an offer to buy Twitter last spring, he chose a price of $54.20 per share.

“Did you round up to 420 as a prank on your girlfriend?” asked Nicholas Porritt.

“It’s not a joke, it represents a premium of 20% above the price of the action”, answered Elon Musk, but acknowledged that there is “a certain karma around 420”.

“Not sure if it’s good or bad karma at this point,” he joked again.

His lawyer, Alex Spiro, helped him paint a picture of an immigrant who came from nowhere in the United States – “where great things are possible” – after an “unhappy” childhood in South Africa, according to the words billionaire.

“I’ve been called crazy many times,” Elon Musk said after listing the companies he founded.

But “at this point I believe I have raised more money than anyone else in history,” he boasted, attributing his success to his “loyalty” to investors.

The trial is expected to last three weeks. In a previous decision related to this case, a judge ruled that the popular tweet in 2018 could be considered “false and misleading”.

The American stock market policeman, the SEC, forced Elon Musk to give up the chairmanship of the board of directors, pay a fine and his tweets are directly related to Tesla’s activity pre-approved by a lawyer.

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