Elon Musk’s Opening Defense At Trial Doesn’t Go Well

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Alex Spiro, a lawyer for billionaire and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, argued at a trial over a civil lawsuit on Wednesday the controversial businessman didn’t lie when claiming he had “funding secured” to take the electric vehicle company he leads private. Instead, Spiro claimed Musk merely used the “wrong words” — which would still constitute an admitted falsehood!

Nicholas Porritt, an attorney helping lead the charge against Musk, decried his statements as lies. “Millions of dollars were lost when his lies were exposed,” he said. “You will come to learn very soon that this was not fraud, not even close,” Spiro countered, according to Reuters. Spiro contended Musk was serious in his ambition to take Tesla private, even if the specifics he claimed in his disputed comments were never conclusively proven to be accurate. Spiro alleged Musk was publicly commenting about the supposed ambition at all to deal with what was apparently the possibility of leaks and to undo the potential for what it seems could amount to insider trading by figures aware of the supposed prospects. Musk himself may soon take the stand in the trial.

Porritt reportedly contended that when “the CEO of a public company like Tesla lies about his company and hurts investors, it’s critical that he is held accountable for that harm that he causes.”

At issue are the swings in stock price that followed Musk’s public comments. He has insisted that he actually had support from a Saudi Arabian fund led by that country’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, although Tesla remains a publicly traded company. The fluctuations in the share price at Tesla threatened the holdings of numerous shareholders, including Glen Littleton, a plaintiff in this legal challenge who indicated he originally started investing in Tesla back in 2015. Previous reports have outlined how the changes in Tesla’s trading price that connected to Musk’s social media comments threatened the finances of short sellers who stood to benefit from a drop in price but were temporarily subjected to dramatic jumps after Musk alleged the deal taking Tesla private would be at a rate of $420 a share — well above where the company normally trades.

Federal Judge Edward Chen already outlined directions that members of the jury take Musk’s previous statements that funding was “secured” and that support from investors was “confirmed” to be factually untrue. The idea here might be that Musk just made a mistake in his phrasing — which seems just objectively difficult to fathom. There was no timer demanding that he post on Twitter more quickly than it would have taken to double-check his posts, no matter whether his remarks were accurate. What motive did he have? Was he speaking in a demonstrably reckless — legally speaking — fashion? Chen already concluded as much, which fills out what would no doubt be a substantial portion of the path to proving to jurors that Musk committed fraud. He and Tesla already paid $20 million each in fines to federal authorities, which the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said would be distributed to affected investors.