A jury has decided Elon Musk did not deceive investors with his 2018 tweets about Tesla.
The verdict was reached after less that two hours of deliberation following a three-week trial and represents a major vindication for the billionaire.
In the first tweet, Mr Musk declared he had ‘funding secured’ to take Tesla private. A few hours later, he essentially wrote that the deal was imminent.
The posts caused Twitter’s stock to surge during a 10-day period, but they fell back after Mr Musk abandoned the deal.
There were legal worries the tweets could have misled Tesla shareholders, steering them in a direction that they argue cost them billions of dollars.
The following trial pitted investors against Mr Musk, who is CEO of both the electric car maker and the Twitter service he bought for 44 billion dollars, against each other.
Mr Musk’s decision to show up for the closing arguments – even though his presence was not required – underscored the importance of the trial’s outcome to him.
Nicholas Porritt, a lawyer for the Tesla shareholders, urged the jurors to rebuke Mr Musk for his ‘loose relationship with the truth’.
‘Our society is based on rules,’ Mr Porritt said. ‘We need rules to save us from anarchy. Rules should apply to Elon Musk like everyone else.’
Alex Spiro, Mr Musk’s attorney, conceded the 2018 tweets were ‘technically inaccurate’.
But he told the jurors: ‘Just because it’s a bad tweet doesn’t make it a fraud.’
During roughly eight hours on the stand earlier in the trial, Mr Musk insisted he believed he had lined up the funds from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund to take Tesla private after eight years as a publicly held company.
He defended his initial August 2018 tweet as well-intentioned and aimed at ensuring all Tesla investors knew the automaker might be on its way to ending its run as a publicly held company.
‘I had no ill motive,’ Mr Musk testified. ‘My intent was to do the right thing for all shareholders.’
But Tesla shareholders’ lawyer, Nicholas Porritt, urged the jurors to rebuke the billionaire for his ‘loose relationship with the truth’.
He said: ‘Our society is based on rules. We need rules to save us from anarchy. Rules should apply to Elon Musk like everyone else.’
Nevertheless, the jury ruled that Mr Musk did not commit fraud on Friday.
The Tesla CEO made sure he was at the court to hear closing arguments despite his presence not being required.
This will have been welcome news to the billionaire, as he could have been saddled with a bill for billions of dollars in damages had the jury found him liable.
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