Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Elon Musk took the witness stand briefly late Friday in a federal trial in San Francisco over alleged investor losses caused by his “funding secured” tweet and other tweets back in 2018.
In his roughly half-hour being questioned by a defense lawyer, Musk lauded Twitter Inc. as the most “democratic” way to communicate with Tesla investors and took a swipe at short sellers.
His testimony is expected to resume on Monday at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. Meanwhile, Tesla shares TSLA, +4.91% were flat in the extended session Friday after ending the regular trading day up 4.9%.
A defense attorney began with plumbing Musk’s Twitter habits, and that Musk sometimes bristled at the implications his tweets may carry more meaning than what he assigns them.
“Just because I tweet something, it does not mean people believe it, or act accordingly,” Musk said, giving as example another one of its infamous tweet, in which he said Tesla stock was too high — and the stock then went higher.
The case revolves around key tweets from August 2018, including one where Musk told his millions of Twitter followers he was “considering taking Tesla private at $420” and then added “funding secured.”
Investor Glen Littleton, the lead plaintiff in the case, alleges he lost money due to the false tweets and is seeking damages.
U.S. District Judge Edward Chen already has ruled that Musk’s tweets about taking Tesla private were not true and that Musk acted with recklessness.
It is still up to jurors to decide, however, if the tweets were material to investors and if the falsehoods caused investor losses.
During his testimony, Musk said short sellers are essentially pulling for Tesla’s demise.
“Short sellers are basically a bunch of sharks on Wall Street,” Musk said. “(They) wanted Tesla to die, very badly” because they stood to make money for an eventual bankruptcy.
Musk testified right after a lengthy testimony from a plaintiff expert.
The CEO and Tesla each were fined $20 million in September 2018 to settle civil charges around the “funding secured” tweets and Musk was stripped of his chairman role at Tesla.
Musk and Tesla agreed to settle the charges against them without admitting to nor denying the SEC’s allegations.