Elon Musk has requested that a shareholder class action lawsuit be transferred from San Francisco, California, to West Texas. Musk’s legal team has argued that the CEO believes there is a lack of unbiased jurors in the Bay Area.
Elon Musk and other Tesla board members are facing a lawsuit that alleged that the CEO manipulated the company’s stock in 2018. The legal action is based on Musk’s infamous “funding secured” tweet, which expressed his intention to take Tesla private at a price of $420 per share. A federal judge is currently considering the motion from Musk’s legal team.
Musk’s “funding secured” tweet triggered wild swings in TSLA stock price and it also initiated an attempted privatization of electric vehicle maker Tesla. Reports later revealed that Musk ultimately backed out of Tesla’s privatization attempt.
In a ruling last year, Senior District Judge Edward M. Chen of Northern California stated that Musk’s 2018 statements were false, and he had knowledge of their falsity. The upcoming trial will determine if the tweets had any impact on shareholders, if and how TSLA shares were affected, and if the company or its directors should be held liable, as per Deadline.
As per Musk’s legal team, however, the CEO’s takeover last year of social media platform Twitter has generated large amounts of negative publicity. This, according to Musk’s camp, could compromise the objectivity of potential jurors in the Bay Area.
“The recent local media coverage has created an environment that encourages the District’s jury pool to hold negative biases against Mr. Musk’s use of Twitter. Since October 2022, the local press has published stories accusing Mr. Musk of encouraging and personally participating in the purported spread of misinformation on the platform, including by posting the Tweets at issue in this case.
“This negative and prejudicial publicity thus infects a core issue in this case. Potential jurors that hold negative opinions about Mr. Musk’s use and relationship with Twitter generally as a result of this coverage will be unable to separate this baseline bias from the facts in this case and thus be unable to impartially evaluate Mr. Musk’s conduct in connection with the August 7 Tweets,” the brief noted.
While Musk’s request could be framed as the CEO trying to get away from valid criticism, jurors must be as objective as possible. The sheer volume of negative pieces against Musk in mainstream and social media has been quite notable since the Twitter takeover. This was especially the case following Musk’s increasing tendency to be political on Twitter, which has resulted in some longtime supporters urging the CEO to lay off the politics and focus on Tesla and SpaceX.
Musk’s motion can be viewed below.