Lodi News-Sentinel

Lawyers tussle over a tweet that cost Tesla investors millions

- Russ Mitchell

Is Elon Musk a fraud, or is he just misunderst­ood? Is he a liar, or does he sometimes just use the “wrong words”?

Those questions took center stage in a San Francisco courtroom Wednesday as Musk’s “funding secured” trial gets underway. The trial, in U.S. District Court, involves an Aug. 7, 2018, tweet in which Tesla Chief Executive Musk said he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at $420 a share, a healthy premium to the stock’s trading price at the time. But Musk has never been able to show that funding was secured. The take-private deal never happened, but the stock value of the company swung by roughly $14 billion as investors tried to sort out what was real and what was not.

If this all sounds familiar, it’s because Musk agreed later in 2018 to settle fraud charges with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The multibilli­onaire was levied a $20-million fine. Musk is in another court trying to get the settlement overturned.

This week’s trial will go over much of the same ground while covering new territory — testimony from investors who say they lost millions by trusting in Musk. The current trial was filed by lawyers representi­ng a number of investors in a class-action suit. If Musk loses, it could cost him many billions of dollars.

Nicholas Porritt, lead attorney for the investors, told the jury during opening statements that “millions of dollars were lost when [Musk’s] lies were exposed.”

An attorney for Musk argued that the chief executive used the “wrong words” when he tweeted his plans in 2018.

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