San Francisco. More than four years after tweeting that he was about to take Tesla out of the stock market, Elon Musk must be held accountable in court by investors who are offended by his statements after already experiencing the wrath of the authorities.
“Elon Musk [alors] Tesla’s CEO lied and people lost millions of dollars because of his lies,” said Nicholas Porritt, an attorney for the plaintiffs, the investors united in the class action.
On August 10, 2018, they filed a complaint against a business executive for “artificially manipulating Tesla’s share price to completely ruin investors” who were betting on the price drop.
The fraud trial began on Tuesday in San Francisco with a nine-member jury selection and is expected to run for three weeks. Elon Musk himself should take the stand, possibly as early as Friday.
On August 7, 2018, he caused surprise when he announced that he wanted to get his group off the stock market by paying $420 per share.
He added that the funding for the operation was “reliable” and indicated a few days later that he was in talks with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, among other things.
According to the defense, Elon Musk had every intention of taking Tesla off the stock market and had no doubts about financing thanks to the assurances of this fund.
Alexander Spiro, the billionaire’s lawyer, admitted that his client tweeted “in a hurry” after a Financial Times article revealed that a Saudi fund had invested in Tesla.
The choice of words was “reckless,” but “it’s not a scam,” the lawyer punched in.
“During this whole process, Mr. Musk has not sold a single share. Not a single Tesla executive, not a single member of the board of directors, sold a single share. In real cases of fraud, people have an agenda, they want to use it. This indicates that it was not a scam,” he added.
The name of the electric car maker jumped to $386.48 after the tweets were published. By August 16, it had dropped to $335.45.
The New York Times published an interview with Elon Musk that day that “confirmed the worst rumors,” Nicholas Porritt claimed, including that “no board member re-read the tweets compiled from his car on the way to the airport. , and that the price, $420, was a joke.”
In the United States, the numbers 4 and 20 together are associated with cannabis use. When the billionaire offered to buy Twitter last spring, he chose $54.20 per share.
“I can tell you that this was not a joke either for Glen Littleton (Lead Plaintiff, approx. ed.), or for other investors who lost millions,” said Nicholas Porritt.
The lawyer explained to the jury that this case is important because it concerns compliance with the laws governing financial markets, markets on which, in particular, funds of pension and insurance companies depend.
“Gifted but Forbidden”
In addition to Elon Musk, Tesla as a legal entity and members of the board of directors of the manufacturer at that time were involved in this procedure.
For four and a half years, Elon Musk never stopped explaining himself in this famous tweet.
Tesla quickly dropped the delisting idea, but the US stock market policeman, the SEC, filed a complaint, believing the boss had failed to provide proof of its funding.
The regulator ordered Elon Musk to hand over chairmanship of Tesla’s board of directors, pay a $20 million fine, and subsequently required his tweets directly related to Tesla’s business to be pre-approved by a competent lawyer.
But government intervention has not curbed his appetite for provocation on Twitter, his favorite social network, which he purchased in October after months of turmoil.
Since then, his controversial decisions at the helm of the platform have sparked outrage almost daily, to the point last week when his lawyers asked a California judge to move the trial to Texas for fear of jury bias.
The motion was denied, but comments from potential jurors read in court on Tuesday showed just how controversial the multi-billionaire is.
Some have described him as a “successful pioneer”, others as “arrogant, unpredictable and sometimes irrational” or “gifted but crazy”.