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The backstory: It's been a wild ride for Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, and it looks like the saga is finally coming to an end. As you might remember, Tesla's investors sued the billionaire, accusing him of manipulating Tesla's stock price and defrauding them with his tweets in 2018 about taking the company private. They argued he didn't actually have the funding arranged, so his tweets were misleading. But Musk said he thought he did have the money secured from Saudi Arabia's Investment Fund, so it wasn't fraud to say so.
More recently: Musk tried to get the trial moved to Texas, where Tesla's headquarters currently are, saying that he couldn't get a fair trial in California. But that request was denied. The trial in San Francisco showed a wide range of opinions about Musk during jury selection, with some prospective jurors calling him a visionary and "smart" and others a narcissist and "off his rocker."
The development: The jury has spoken in favor of Musk. On Friday, nine jurors said he didn't defraud investors with his tweets after deliberating for less than two hours. This saved Musk potentially billions in damages.
Musk's attorney, Alex Spiro, argued that just because the tweets were technically inaccurate, it didn't make them fraudulent. On the other hand, Nicholas Porritt, representing the unhappy investors, asked the jury to hold Musk accountable for his reckless behavior.
During the three-week trial, Musk defended himself on the stand, insisting he’d secured funding from Saudi Arabia to take the company private. The jury believed him and doubted that his tweets were the only reason for Tesla's stock price swings.
"Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured," said Elon Musk on Twitter in 2018.
"Thank goodness, the wisdom of the people has prevailed!" wrote Elon Musk on Twitter after the verdict. "I am deeply appreciative of the jury's unanimous finding of innocence in the Tesla 420 take-private case,"
"The claim is that the investors felt that they were defrauded by Musk's tweet, that he was considering taking Tesla private and critically, that he had funding secured for it," said Robert Bartlett, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, to Reuters.
"I don't think this is the kind of conduct we expect from a large public company," said Nicholas Porritt after speaking with a group of jurors who got together to talk about the verdict with him. "People can draw their own conclusion on whether they think it's OK or not."