In court, Elon Musk doubles down on ‘driving factor’ behind Tesla ‘funding secured’ tweet
Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk testified on Monday that concern over a pending news report was “the driving factor” behind his decision to post a series of 2018 tweets at the heart of a class-action lawsuit brought by Tesla stockholders.
The testimony, and other statements from Musk on his second day of questioning, offered his rationale for posting on the social media site that he was considering taking the electric vehicle company private at $420 per share and had secured funding for such a deal.
“It was concerning because this information was not public,” Musk said about advance notice he received that the Financial Times planned to report on Aug. 7, 2018 — the day of his initial tweet — that Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund had acquired a 5% ownership stake in Tesla.
cording to the shareholders, Musk illegally manipulated the stock price and he and Tesla’s board should be held accountable for an unspecified portion of billions of dollars in damages sustained by those who bought or sold the company’s stock after the tweet and up until Aug. 17, 2018.
Musk said at that time he had already received a verbal, though “unequivocal,” commitment from the Saudi fund to finance a take-private deal. Worried that the news story would reveal the purported accord, Musk said he sent the tweet to ensure all investors had access to equal information.
The Saudi fund’s representative, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, later denied through media reports and in a private text message to Musk that funding was assured.
“This is ass covering,” Musk said of Al-Rumayyan’s text. “It does not describe the reality of the situation.”
Musk’s lawyers failed to compel testimony from the fund’s representatives who are outside U.S. jurisdiction. Under questioning, Musk accused the shareholders of deliberately choosing not to solicit testimony from fund officials.
Musk admitted that none of the Saudi fund officials signed any documents reflecting funding for the take-private transaction. He also said that no particular amount of funding had been talked about in his meetings with its executives.