Elon Musk defends tweets in securities fraud trial in San Francisco

Elon Musk defends tweets in securities fraud trial in San Francisco

Alex Spiro, legal professional to Elon Musk, heart, departs court docket in San Francisco, California, US, on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023.

Benjamin Fanjoy | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk appeared in a San Francisco federal court docket on Friday to defend tweets he posted to his tens of tens of millions of followers in August 2018.

The tweets mentioned he had “funding secured” to take his electrical car firm non-public for $420 per share, and that “investor assist” for such a deal was “confirmed.”

Tesla’s inventory buying and selling initially halted after the tweets, then shares have been extremely unstable for weeks. Musk later said that he had been in discussions with Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and felt certain that funding would come by means of at his proposed value. A deal by no means materialized.

The SEC charged Musk and Tesla with civil securities fraud after the tweets. Musk and Tesla every paid $20 million fines to the company, and struck a revised settlement settlement that required Musk to quickly relinquish his position as chairman of the board at Tesla.

His 2018 tweets additionally triggered a shareholder class motion lawsuit from Tesla traders. They alleged that Musk’s tweets misled them and mentioned counting on his statements to make trades price them vital quantities of cash.

The shareholders’ trades in query befell throughout a 10-day interval earlier than Musk appeared to confess a take-private deal was not going to occur in 2018.

Musk mentioned beneath oath on Friday that it is tough to hyperlink Tesla’s inventory value to his tweets.

“There have been many instances the place I assumed that if I have been to tweet one thing, the inventory value would go down,” Musk mentioned. “For instance, at one level I tweeted that I assumed that, in my opinion, the inventory value was too excessive…and it went went increased, which was, which is, you already know, counterintuitive.”

A giant improve in buying and selling quantity after he tweeted

It’s uncommon for high executives at publicly traded corporations to debate their inventory value as a result of any commentary can affect value actions.

Daniel Taylor, director of the Wharton Forensics Analytics Lab and professor on the University of Pennsylvania, analyzed each commerce in Tesla inventory occurring on Aug. 7, 2018, the day that Musk tweeted. He calculated the entire buying and selling quantity each minute from the time the market opened by means of the time of Musk’s tweets a few buyout. 

Taylor discovered that the buying and selling quantity the minute Musk tweeted, at 12:48 p.m. ET that day, was over $350 million, and the buying and selling quantity for Tesla shares the following minute was over $250 million. By comparability, the common quantity 5 minutes earlier than Musk tweeted was $32 million per minute. The minute earlier than Musk tweeted, buying and selling quantity was $24 million.  

“It is usually true that correlation will not be causation,” Taylor advised CNBC on Friday, after Musk’s first day on the witness stand. “However, I’m unaware of any different rationalization for a 10-fold improve in buying and selling quantity the identical minute that Elon Musk tweeted.”

Musk additionally testified about his low opinion of brief sellers on Friday.

“I imagine brief promoting must be made unlawful,” Musk mentioned, referring to brief sellers as “dangerous individuals on Wall Street” who “steal” from different traders. He mentioned in addition they plant tales in the media to “get the inventory to go down” and can “do something in their energy to make an organization die.”

Tesla was among the many most closely shorted shares in August 2018, when Musk made the statements about taking Tesla non-public. Tesla’s share value surged about 10% throughout buying and selling that day. Short sellers face monumental losses when shares in a given firm climb increased.

Some of the plaintiffs in the trial that is underway declare that Musk’s “funding secured” tweets have been supposed to place upward value stress on Tesla’s inventory driving a so-called “brief squeeze.”

Musk’s testimony will not be but full and the court docket plans to listen to from him once more on Monday.

WATCH: Musk testifies over tweets

Tesla CEO Elon Musk to testify over 2018 'funding secured' tweets