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Saturday, January 28, 2023

Elon Musk is back on the witness stand in trial over his tweets about taking Tesla private

Tesla CEO Elon Musk took the witness stand again Monday in a trial over whether he purposefully misled investors when he tweeted that he had “secured” funding to take the electric car maker private.

Musk will resume testimony he began Friday afternoon, in which he told a nine-person Northern California jury that his tweets are truthful but limited by Twitter’s 280-character count.

Musk is being sued by Tesla investors who claim the August 2018 take-private tweet caused them to lose substantial sums of money. U.S. Judge Edward Chen has already ruled the tweet was false and reckless — but Musk believes he can convince the jury that he did not know the tweet was false when he sent it, and that in any case the movements of Tesla’s stock price are not directly tied to his tweets.

“Just because I tweet something does not mean people believe it or will act accordingly,” Musk told the jury Friday in San Francisco federal court.

Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, told the jury in opening statements last week that Musk believed he had financing from Saudi backers and was taking steps to make the deal happen. Fearing leaks to the media, Musk tried to protect the “everyday shareholder” by sending the tweet, which contained “technical inaccuracies,” Spiro said.

But Nicholas Porritt, an attorney for the shareholders, is arguing Musk knew that a deal between Tesla and Saudi Arabia’s public investment fund had not yet materialized.

The trial is a rarity: Most shareholder lawsuits are either dismissed or settled out of court. In 2019, Musk convinced another jury that he did not defame British cave diver Vern Unsworth when he called Unsworth a “pedo guy” in another 2018 tweet.

Asked Friday about requests from Twitter stakeholders to avoid tweeting, Musk said he did not recall them. Musk now owns Twitter, having completed his purchase of the social media platform last fall.

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