Shareholders suing Tesla CEO Elon Musk over a deceptive tweet have asked a federal court to reject Musk’s request to relocate the trial from California to Texas.
SFO (Associated Press) — An attorney representing Tesla shareholders who are suing Elon Musk over a deceptive tweet has asked a federal court to deny Musk’s request to relocate the trial from California to Texas.
Musk claims that possible jurors in the federal court in San Francisco, where the case has been pending for four years, would treat him unjustly.
However, in a filing made on Wednesday, Tesla shareholders’ attorneys claimed there are no legal grounds to move the upcoming trial, which centres around a tweet from August 7, 2018, in which Musk indicated he had lined up financing for a Tesla buyout, a deal that ultimately did not materialise and resulted in a $40 million settlement with U.S. securities regulators.
Lawyers for Musk also claimed that he is solely to account for any unfavourable public opinion, using the CEO and founder of the social media network Twitter as an example.
“Musk is, for better or worse, a globally recognised personality who often appears in media outlets around the world “Attorneys for the shareholders opposed the transfer request with a lengthy document of 19 pages. It’s in part due to his influence on Twitter. Given Musk’s propensity for drawing “negative” press, he would be practically untriable before a jury if such attention was sufficient to exclude a jury pool.”
Less than a week earlier, Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro urged U.S. District Judge Edward Chen to shift the lawsuit to Texas, where Musk relocated Tesla’s headquarters in 2021 after almost 20 years at its original Silicon Valley home. Spiro wants to postpone the start of jury selection, which is set to begin on Tuesday if the trial isn’t moved.
The shareholders’ lawyers pointed out that the federal court in Texas would never have accepted their 2018 complaint since Musk’s buyout tweet happened when Tesla was headquartered in Palo Alto, California. Several former California-based Tesla executives are on the list of witnesses, and they would be unduly inconvenienced by a trial location change to Texas.
A hearing on Musk’s motion to reschedule or postpone the trial has been planned for this coming Friday before Judge Chen. The court has ruled that Musk’s buyout statement was false; now it’s up to a jury to assess whether or not his tweet was irresponsible and whether or not Tesla shareholders were harmed financially as a result. If your account for two stock splits that have occurred since 2018, the value of a Tesla share is approximately six times what it was when Musk tweeted about the fake buyout.
Although Musk has been celebrated as a technology genius in the San Francisco Bay Area for quite some time, Spiro feels that his reputation has been severely damaged by unfavourable media coverage since he finalised his $44 billion purchase of Twitter in October. Since then, Musk has alienated Twitter’s users with practises that critics say have demolished the service’s guardrails against disinformation and vile material, and he has laid off or driven away more than half of Twitter’s workers.
Spiro claims that potential jurors are more likely to be biased against Musk because of the criticism of his activities, which he has defended as measures to reduce Twitter’s losses and maintain free-speech rights. Spiro mentioned that jurors from the San Francisco Bay Area would have been affected by Musk’s acquisition in more ways than one if they were recently laid off from Twitter or knew someone who was.
To counter this, the shareholders’ counsel pointed to the nearly 200 completed juror questionnaires submitted to Chen. According to the lawyers, just two or three of the possible jurors said they know someone who works at Twitter.