Elon Musk in February 2022
Photo: JIM Watson / AFP
Tesla investors accuse the company boss Elon Musk of fraud, in the court case the billionaire has now been called to the witness stand and provided some insights into his line of defense.
He insisted that the length of the Twitter messages, which is currently limited to 280 characters, does not allow for detailed explanations.
The case relates to Musk's August 2018 tweet rushing to announce that he intends to take the electric car company public and has secured funding to do so.
Later it turned out that there were no firm commitments from investors.
Investors are basing their class action lawsuit against Musk and Tesla's board of directors on this.
The false tweets triggered price swings that caused them to lose money, they argue.
However, Musk's questioning by the plaintiff's lawyer was brief on Friday: the court adjourned until Monday about half an hour after the start of the questioning.
However, his lawyer had already said in the opening speech that the phrase "financing secured" was only due to an unfortunate choice of words under time pressure, while Musk meant something else.
The lawyer for the plaintiffs reminded the Tesla boss in the survey that he also had to provide correct information about his company on Twitter.
Musk doesn't want to be able to remember recommendations from confidants at first
At the same time, Musk tried to question the general impact of his tweets on investors.
"Just because I tweet something doesn't mean that people will believe it or act accordingly," he said during the survey, according to the dpa news agency.
He once wrote on Twitter that he thought Tesla shares were too expensive - and the price continued to rise afterwards, Musk said.
In fact, on the day in May 2020 following Musk's tweet, the stock had initially fallen over 10 percent before later bouncing back.
The plaintiff's attorney also pointed out that in July 2018, Musk's confidants recommended that he tweet less or not at all.
The 51-year-old initially said he couldn't remember.
But after reading similar statements from the confidants "to refresh the memory," he did not deny it.
He obviously didn't comply, Musk said.
(Read the current SPIEGEL cover story about Elon Musk here.)
Was Musk aware he was making false statements?
Judge Edward Chen found in the proceedings last year that Musk's statements in the tweets were not true.
While the jury is made aware of this at trial, it is expected to evaluate whether those statements were relevant to investors - and harmed them by relying on them.
They also need to determine whether Musk was aware that he was making false statements.
The tweets had already caused serious trouble for Musk and Tesla.
The 51-year-old and the company each paid fines of $20 million for misleading investors, according to the SEC's investigation.
In addition, Musk had to give up the chairmanship of the board of directors and undertake to have Tesla approve potentially price-sensitive tweets.