The prosecution and defense are scheduled to open Wednesday a fraud case against quirky billionaire Elon Musk that began the day before in San Francisco.
A nine-member jury appointed on Tuesday will have to decide whether a tweet written by the Tesla boss in 2018 was fraudulent, as investors accuse it.
The case dates back to August 2018, when Elon Musk tweeted that he wanted to take Tesla off the stock market as he had the necessary funding to do so. His messages caused stocks to fluctuate wildly for several days.
“Plaintiffs allege that these tweets were factually false and artificially influenced the stock price of Tesla and other securities,” Judge Edward Chen summed up for potential jurors.
On Friday, a magistrate refused to disorient a lawsuit in Texas, the US state where the multi-billionaire moved Tesla’s headquarters, enabling an impartial jury to be formed in the California city.
The defense argued that their client could not have benefited from a fair trial in San Francisco, where it acquired Twitter in late October and was widely criticized for its decisions, from the platform’s content moderation policy to mass layoffs.
“In recent months, the local media has filled the area with biased and negative stories about Mr. Musk,” the lawyers said.
“The local press, contrary to their usual way of covering (social plans), personally accused Mr. Musk of cutting jobs and even accused him of violating the law. Local elected officials, including the mayor of San Francisco, participated in the protests. against him,” they continued.
In addition to Elon Musk, Tesla is involved in this procedure as a legal entity, as well as members of the manufacturer’s board of directors at that time.
– “He’s too bad” –
On Tuesday, the court considered the responses of dozens of potential jurors to a questionnaire that indicated their opinion of Elon Musk.
“You bet: + He’s too bad + (…) What do you mean?”, For example, the judge asked the woman.
“You have described Mr. Musk as arrogant, unpredictable and sometimes irrational. Could you explain if this opinion is based on what happened on Twitter?” he asked another person.
“Gifted but banned,” wrote another citizen, then assured that she could be “neutral” if she was selected on the jury.
The potential juror admitted to him that he was unlikely to be impartial. “There is also the +billionaire aspect. I’m not a big fan of these people,” he said.
Other questionnaires described the controversial boss as a “promising businessman” and a “successful pioneer”.
Alex Spiro, Elon Musk’s attorney, asked future jurors to remain “open-minded” even if they hear the prosecution’s case first.
Even before the selection, he insisted on the need not to mention the “recent events on Twitter.”
– Confused –
The trial will last three weeks. Elon Musk is on the witness list.
In a previous ruling in the case, the judge ruled that the famous 2018 tweet could be considered “false and misleading.”
Short messages from Tesla’s boss have already caused him numerous disputes with the authorities.
The US stock market policeman, the SEC, also filed a complaint at the time, believing that Elon Musk failed to provide proof of his funding.
The regulator then forced him to hand over the chairmanship of Tesla, pay a $20 million fine, and later required his tweets directly related to Tesla to be pre-approved by a competent lawyer.
In the spring, Elon Musk again tried to reverse this decision, but in vain.