After a three-week trial, a jury has unanimously ruled in favor of Tesla CEO Elon Musk in a $12 billion lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed by shareholders who felt misled by a series of tweets Musk sent in 2018, in which he said he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private at “$420” per share. While the number “420” is often associated with marijuana, in this case it was a serious business decision.
The lawsuit alleged that Musk’s tweets were false and misleading, and that investors lost billions of dollars as a result. The jury disagreed, and Musk was found not liable for the damages. The jury’s decision came after Musk testified that he believed his tweets were truthful and that he had a verbal commitment from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund to provide the necessary financing.
In his closing arguments, Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, argued that the case was based on “bad word choice” and that “just because it’s a bad tweet doesn’t make it fraud.” The jury agreed, and Musk was found not guilty. Following the verdict, Musk tweeted, “Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed! I am deeply appreciative of the jury’s unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case.”
The jury’s decision has been met with both praise and criticism. Some argue that the outcome is a win for free speech, while others worry that the U.S. anti-securities fraud law may not be up to the task of protecting investors in modern markets. Whatever your opinion may be, the jury’s decision is a reminder of the power of words and the importance of being mindful of how they are used.