Tesla is being sued by JP Morgan Chase in a massive $162 million lawsuit over stock warrants linked to CEO Elon Musk’s infamous “funding secured” Tweet from 2018 when Musk hinted toward taking the company private at $420.
Court filings made public on Monday and reported by Barron’s showed JPMorgan Chase is alleging Tesla of branching a contract in regards to the repricing of warrants. Following Musk’s Tweet in 2018 that hinted he was thinking of taking Tesla private at $420 per share, the stock responded with volatility, which caused losses. JPMorgan Chase’s lawsuit outlines a potential payout of $162.2 million, plus interest, fees, and expenses.
JPMorgan filed the complaint in the Southern District of New York, and details a contract with Tesla where the automaker was legally obliged to deliver shares or cash if the stock price passed certain levels by a certain time. This is known as a “strike price.” Barron’s said this was a stock warrant transaction, which is similar to stock options contracts available to retail investors.
The lawsuit’s most critical point is that Tesla did not deliver the cash or shares. JPMorgan was forced to reprice the stock warrants after Musk Tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured. Shareholders could either to sell at 420 or hold shares & go private.”
Shareholders could either to sell at 420 or hold shares & go private
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) August 7, 2018
Musk’s Tweet resulted in a settlement with the SEC, which required the CEO to step down as Tesla’s Chairman, pay a $20 million penalty, appoint two new independent directors to the Tesla board, and “establish a new committee of independent directors and put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications.”
The Tweets spiked Tesla’s stock price, which, in turn, caused JPMorgan to readjust the value of the warrants. After Musk and Tesla confirmed a few weeks later that the stock would not be taken private, JPMorgan readjusted the value of the warrants once again. Tesla sold warrants to JPMorgan with provisions that protected both entities from potential volatility that could come from significant corporate transactions, according to JPMorgan. The provisions gave the banking firm the right to adjust and readjust the warrants in cases of significant announcements that could cause stock movement. JPMorgan said the provisions were put in to protect both parties from “exactly the type” of announcement that Musk Tweeted.
Tesla, however, did not take kindly to JPMorgan repricing the warrants and stated that the bank’s move was “unreasonably swift and represented an opportunistic attempt to take advantage of changes in volatility in Tesla’s stock,” according to a letter that was included in the filing.
JPMorgan did not readjust the strike price following the second modification, the filing said, as the warrants expired in June and July 2021. Tesla’s stock rose nearly 900% from the 2018 Tweet to the end of July 2021, most of the growth taking place during 2020, when TSLA shares rose over 700%. The prices were above the original and readjusted strike prices.
The lawsuit said that Tesla and the bank have agreed that the automaker should settle the undisputed number of shares earlier in 2021. However, Tesla is still uneasy with the fact JPMorgan readjusted the strike prices, but JPMorgan said that failure to settle the adjusted strike price could conclude with a default. JPMorgan’s suit said Tesla failed to deliver 228,775 shares, meaning the bank is stuck with an open hedge position that equals the shortfall. “Even though JPMorgan’s adjustments were appropriate and contractually required, Tesla has refused to settle at the contractual strike price and pay in full what it owes to JPMorgan,” the firm said in its complaint. “As a result, more than $162 million is immediately due and payable to JPMorgan by Tesla.”
The case, JPMorgan Chase Bank v. Tesla Inc., 21-cv-09441, is available to read here.
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