When Elon Musk Tweeted about potentially taking Tesla private in 2018, he was ‘recklessly’ communicating about an unfinalized deal, according to U.S. District Judge Edward Chen. Chen said in a San Francisco courtroom that the Tesla CEO’s communications through the social media platform were inaccurate when talking about potential financing from the Saudi Arabia sovereign wealth fund.
“No reasonable jury could find that Mr. Musk did not act recklessly given his clear knowledge of the discussions,” Judge Chen said regarding Musk’s 2018 Tweet. “Rather, discussions between Tesla and the PIF were clearly at the preliminary stage.”
The ruling was sealed until yesterday, but the judgment was actually made on April 1.
It is the latest update in a trial that aims to find whether Musk increased stock prices with the Tweets that hinted toward potentially taking Tesla shares private at $420 per share. Shareholders said Musk’s statements were false and misleading and led to billions of dollars in losses.
“It is hugely significant,” Nicholas Porritt, an attorney for the shareholders said to Reuters. Porritt added that it is rare that class action plaintiffs get a summary judgment on falsity before going to a jury trial, which will happen in January 2023.
Judge Chen has been critical of Musk’s Tweets during the suit. In past developments, Chen has challenged the legitimacy of Musk’s claims for some time and has previously ruled that the CEO’s corporate communications, especially when dealing with the “funding secured” line in specific, were not entirely truthful. Musk has objected to this claim on several occasions in interviews outside of the courtroom. Most recently, Musk commented during an interview with Head of TED Chris Anderson that his acceptance of a 2018 consent decree gave the wrong impression.
“It makes it look like I lied, when I did not, in fact, lie. I was forced to admit I lied to save Tesla’s life,” Musk said. Musk added that he was forced to accept the terms of the SEC’s decree or he would no longer be able to acquire capital from banks to keep Tesla up and running.
After Musk’s comments, shareholders complained that the CEO should not be allowed to talk about details of the case in public. The court ruled to not muzzle Musk, as Judge Chen said it was not evidently justified and that Tesla’s frontman was protected by first amendment rights.