Jury rules in favor of Elon Musk over 2018 Tesla tweets
The verdict comes after a three-week trial in which shareholders were pitted against the billionaire and business CEO.
Jurors cleared Elon Musk of liability in a lawsuit over a pair of 2018 tweets from the executive that investors claim cost them billions of dollars.
At the time, the tweets sent the Tesla share price on a rollercoaster ride, and Musk was sued by shareholders who said the tycoon acted recklessly in an effort to squeeze investors who had bet against the company.
After less than two hours of deliberation, a jury in San Francisco concluded on Friday that Tesla CEO Elon Musk did not deceive investors with two tweets about a Tesla buyout that never transpired in August 2018.
The ruling is reportedly a significant victory for Musk, who is entangled in many lawsuits and has vigorously contested any allegations of guilt. Tech Mogul, who is now the CEO of Twitter after purchasing the company for $44 billion months ago, has consistently defended his ability to tweet widely.
The lawsuit was viewed as a litmus test for whether Musk might be held accountable for his controversial use of Twitter.
The billionaire testified on many days of the trial, saying his tweets were a democratic way of communicating and did not necessarily have the desired effect on Tesla shares.
"Just because I tweet something does not mean that people would believe it or act on it," he told the jurors.
“Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed!” Musk said in a tweet following the verdict. “I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.”
Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 3, 2023
I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.
Musk appeared in court for closing statements on Friday, despite the fact that his presence was not required, emphasizing the significance of the trial's conclusion to him.
The trial was presided over by US District Judge Edward Chen, who concluded last year that Musk's 2018 tweets were false and told the jury to regard them as such.
"The drama isn't over"
US District Judge Edward Chen, who presided over the trial, ruled last year that Musk's 2018 tweets were fraudulent and told the jury to treat them as such.
In addition to the class action lawsuit, Musk was charged with fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2018 for the tweets and was fined $40 million. Musk agreed to a condition that his tweets be authorized by a Tesla counsel before being published as part of his settlement with the US government, a clause he has been accused of violating several times since.
During his almost eight-hour testimony, Musk asserted that he had secured financing from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund to take Tesla private after eight years as a publicly traded firm. He justified his initial August 2018 tweet as well-intentioned and geared at informing all Tesla investors that the manufacturer was possibly on its way out as a publicly traded corporation.
“I had no ill motive,” Musk testified. “My intent was to do the right thing for all shareholders.”
Experts who followed the case thought the outcome demonstrated that the jury believed Musk's side of the story.
“Musk won this one; hang one up on the scorecard for him,” said Josh White, an assistant professor of finance at Vanderbilt University, who believes the case will be appealed. “So the drama’s not over.”
Others were taken aback by the jury's decisiveness. "I was astonished the jury returned so swiftly," said Stavros Gadinis, director of the UC Berkeley Center for Law and Business.