Elon Musk will never stop posting no matter who tells him to stop.
That was one of the conclusions of his brief testimony at his securities fraud trial, which took place Friday at a San Francisco courthouse. Attorneys for the plaintiffs bombarded Musk with questions about his tweets as they worked towards his infamous 2018 “funding secured” tweet at the center of this case. Musk is being sued by a group of Tesla investors who claim his bumbling efforts to take Tesla private that year cost them millions of dollars.
However, Musk was not yet asked about that tweet. He took the stand for just over 30 minutes before the trial was adjourned until next Monday. But the plaintiff’s lawyers got a lot of questions about his Twitter habits, especially about all the people in his life who have begged him to leave the bird site.
Among the people who asked him to stop tweeting are Antonio Gracias, a former director of Tesla’s board of directors, investors Ron Baron and Sam Teller, Musk’s former de facto chief of staff, and other close associates.
Musk got a lot of questions about his Twitter habits, especially about all the people in his life who have begged him to stop
“I suppose I kept tweeting, yes,” Musk replied when asked if he was ignoring his advisors and investors.
(Worth noting: Musk tweeted just seven minutes before taking the stand and waited about 45 minutes after stepping down before sending out his next tweet.)
Prosecutors are trying to portray Musk as a reckless tweeter who ignores good advice about the significant impact his public statements could have on his company’s stock price and shareholders. At the beginning of his testimony, Musk was asked to describe the relationship between his tweets and Tesla’s private investors.
“I care deeply about retail investors,” Musk said. “That’s where our most loyal and steadfast investors are.”
It’s easy to imagine how this statement will haunt him later in the process, as plaintiffs’ attorneys will likely remind him of the financial pain his tweets have caused these investors.
“I care deeply about retail investors,” Musk said.
Musk was also asked to talk about one of his favorite topics: short sellers. Tesla is one of the most short-positioned stocks in the market, and Musk has made no secret of his contempt for investors who bet against his company’s success.
“I think short selling should be made illegal,” he said. “It is, in my opinion, a tool for bad people on Wall Street to steal money from small investors. Not good.”
Most of the day’s testimony was devoted to Guhan Subramanian, a Harvard Business School professor and an expert witness for the prosecution, who described how unusual and unprecedented it was for Musk to tweet his way through Tesla’s managed buyout.
“What’s really different here is the communication of material non-public information about a managed buyout through Twitter,” Subramanian testified. “That’s just never been done before.”
One possible sign of Musk’s much-reported exhaustion: Late in his testimony, he said there were “two main companies that I run where I’m essentially the chief technologist and product person” — SpaceX and Tesla.
There was no mention of running a third company, Twitter.