Musk plays down impact of his tweets at Tesla fraud trial
Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk played down how much impact his tweets have on the company’s stock price as he defended himself at a trial over his 2018 tweet about taking the electric carmaker private.
“It’s difficult to say the stock price is linked to the tweet,” he told jurors Friday in San Francisco federal court. “Just because I tweet about something doesn’t mean people believe it or will act accordingly.”
The investors contend the tweets amounted to lies that cost them big losses from wild stock price swings over a 10day period before the plan was abandoned. The trial requires jurors to delve into Musk’s state of mind when he posted the messages, and to determine whether the billionaire’s social media posts really influenced investor trading.
When asked by a lawyer for the investors if he needs to be accurate with his tweets, Musk replied that he’s providing “information the public should hear,” but that there’s only so much that can be conveyed with a limit of 240 characters in a Twitter post.
Musk appeared on the witness stand wearing a black suit and tie, removed his mask and briefly smiled to jurors as if he was acknowledging them.
During questioning, Musk appeared to show a more relatable side by telling the jury that 2018 was an “extremely painful and difficult year.”
“I was sleeping in the factory to make things work,” Musk said. “The sheer level of pain to make Tesla successful in 2017-2019 period was excruciating for me and many others.”
He reiterated his mantra that short selling should be made illegal, telling jurors that short-sellers wanted the stock to go down and wanted Tesla “to die very badly.”
Musk’s lawyers told the jury during opening statements Wednesday that while his tweets were rushed and contained technical errors, they accurately conveyed that he was sincere about taking Tesla private.
Musk is expected to testify that the short-lived plan to take Tesla private was solid based on discussions he had with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund.
The trial comes as Musk’s wealth has dwindled from a peak of $340 billion in November 2021.