Tesla CEO Elon Musk and his security detail depart the company’s local office in Washington, January 27, 2023.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
Elon Musk and Tesla were found not liable by a jury in a San Francisco federal court on Friday in a class action securities fraud trial stemming from tweets Musk made in 2018.
The Tesla, SpaceX and Twitter CEO was sued by Tesla shareholders over a series of tweets he wrote in Aug. 2018 saying he had “funding secured” to take the automaker private for $420 per share, and that “investor support” for such a deal was “confirmed.” Trading in Tesla was halted after his tweets, and its share price remained volatile for weeks.
Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before reading their verdict. “We are disappointed with the verdict and considering next steps,” said Nicholas Porritt, partner at Levi & Korsinski, the firm representing the shareholders in the class action.
“I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
“He doesn’t think ahead of time in that rushed moment that this could be interpreted differently and what it means to him,” Musk’s attorney told the jury earlier on Friday. “In that moment he didn’t think, ‘how could my words be interpreted differently by you than it means to me.'”
“You have to assess this in context – he’s considering taking it private and the issue is will it actually take it forward,” Musk’s attorney said. “No fraud has ever been built on the back of a consideration.”
Musk’s lead counsel did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The shareholders in the certified class action lawsuit included a mix of stock and options buyers who allege that Musk’s tweets were reckless and false, and that relying on his statements to make decisions about when to buy or sell cost them significant amounts of money.
Musk later claimed that he had a verbal commitment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and thought funding would come through at his proposed price based on a handshake. However, the deal never materialized.
During the course of this trial, Musk also said he would have sold shares of SpaceX to finance a going private deal for Tesla, as well as taking funds from the Saudi Public Investment Fund.