Musk Defends His '420' Tesla Tweets

He says he 'felt funding was secured' due to his ownership of SpaceX stock
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 23, 2023 6:25 PM CST
Musk Testifies in Tesla Tweet Trial
In this courtroom sketch is Elon Musk, left, with his lawyer Alex Spiro in federal court as US District Judge Edward Chen, right, looks on in San Francisco, Monday, Jan. 23, 2023.   (Vicki Behringer via AP)

Elon Musk returned to federal court Monday in San Francisco, testifying that he believed he had locked up financial backing to take Tesla private during 2018 meetings with representatives from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund—although no specific funding amount or price was discussed. The billionaire Tesla CEO and Twitter owner is facing a class action lawsuit filed by Tesla investors alleging he misled them with a tweet saying funding was secured to take his electric car company private—for $420 per share. But the deal never came close to happening, and the tweet resulted in a $40 million settlement with securities regulators.

Musk said Monday he “had trouble sleeping last night and unfortunately I am not at my best," the AP reports. He added that it was important for jurors to know that he "felt that funding was secured" due to his ownership of "SpaceX stock alone." "Just as I sold stock in Tesla to buy Twitter. ... I didn't want to sell Tesla stock but I did sell Tesla stock," he said of the sale to make up for the lack of funding from other sources for his $44 billion deal to take Twitter private. Musk sold nearly $23 billion worth of his car company's shares between last April, when he started building a position in Twitter, and December. "My SpaceX shares alone would have meant that funding was secured," Musk said of the 2018 tweets.

In the first of the 2018 tweets, Musk stated "funding secured" for what would have been a $72 billion—or $420 per share—buyout of Tesla at a time when the electric automaker was still grappling with production problems. Musk followed up a few hours later with another tweet suggesting a deal was imminent. Even before Musk first took the stand on Friday, US District Judge Edward Chen had declared that jurors can consider those two tweets to be false, leaving them to decide whether Musk deliberately deceived investors and whether his statements saddled them with losses.

Nicholas Porritt, a lawyer representing Tesla shareholders, asked Musk if he "went with 420 because it was a joke your girlfriend enjoys." Musk replied he thinks there is "some karma" around the number 420—which is also a slang reference to marijuana—although he added he doesn't know "if it's good karma or bad karma at this point." He then said that the number was a coincidence and that it represented a 20% premium of Tesla's share price at the time. On Friday, Musk had testified he thinks it is possible to be "absolutely truthful" on Twitter. "But can you be comprehensive? Of course not."

(Read more Elon Musk stories.)

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