Tesla founder Elon Musk has been acquitted of wrongdoing after he tweeted that he had “secured funding” to take the electric car maker private. Musk was sued in a class action lawsuit in August 2018 for misleading Tesla shareholders. His proposed $72 billion (£60 billion) takeover never materialized. If a San Francisco jury found Mr. Musk responsible, he could have been fined billions of dollars in damages. It took him less than two hours on Friday afternoon for a jury of nine to reach a verdict.
Central to the lawsuit was Mr. Musk’s tweet on 7 August 2018: “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” The plaintiffs also argued Mr. Musk had lied when he tweeted later in the day that “investor support is confirmed”. The stock price surged after the tweets but fell back again within days as it became clear the deal would not go through. Investor losses were calculated as high as $12bn, according to an economist hired by the shareholders. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Mr. Musk over his tweets, accusing him of lying to investors. Mr. Musk agreed to step aside as Tesla board chairman and settled for $20m.
Mr. Musk remained mostly calm during his testimony. There were times when it was frivolous. Several Tesla directors, including Rupert Murdoch’s son James Murdoch, also testified, who testified that Musk didn’t need Tesla’s board to consider the buyout tweet.