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After Twitter Takeover, Elon Musk Has More Legal Battles to Deal With




By Reuters | Updated: 29 October 2022

Elon Musk was forced through a months-long court battle to buy Twitter on Thursday, but numerous lawsuits remain against the world’s richest person and electric carmaker Tesla, where he is chief executive.

Twitter Lawsuit

Twitter investors sued Musk in May in San Francisco federal court, claiming he manipulated Twitter’s stock price by failing to disclose in March he was amassing shares in the social media platform. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also said it is investigating the timing of Musk’s disclosures.

Musk’s attorneys have asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing it is barred by federal securities law.

$55 Billion Tesla Pay Lawsuit

A shareholder of Tesla wants a judge to find that Musk’s Tesla pay package, which is estimated to be worth $55 billion (roughly Rs. 4,52,600 crore), unjustly enriches Musk. The case is scheduled to go to trial on November 14 in Delaware’s Court of Chancery. Tesla has said the pay aligns Musk’s incentives with shareholders and has benefited investors.

Employment Disputes

Tesla and Musk are defending numerous allegations of workplace harassment and discrimination, including a lawsuit by California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH).

In 2021, a jury awarded a Black elevator operator who worked at Tesla’s factory in Fremont, California, $137 million (roughly Rs. 1,130 crore) in damages before a new trial was ordered. Separately, a Tesla shareholder has sued the company, claiming it has not adequately tackled workplace discrimination and harassment.

Tesla has said it does not tolerate discrimination and has taken steps to address workers’ complaints.

Lawsuits Sparked by Musk’s Tweets

In August 2018, Musk sent a tweet that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private, sending shares sharply higher. The tweet sparked a series of lawsuits.

A 2018 lawsuit by the US Securities and Exchange Commission ended with Musk stepping down as Tesla chairman, paying fines and having a lawyer approve some of his tweets before posting them.

Tesla shareholders are suing in Delaware to tighten oversight of Musk’s tweets about the company. In a separate ongoing case alleging Musk inflated Tesla stock by making false statements, a US District Court in San Francisco found the 2018 tweet was inaccurate and reckless.

JPMorgan Chase also sued Tesla in November for $162.2 million (roughly Rs. 1,330 crore), saying it was forced to reprice Tesla stock warrants after the 2018 tweet. Tesla said the tweet was a personal statement by Musk and countersued the bank, arguing it was seeking a “windfall” and should have terminated the warrants rather than reprice them.

Investigations of Tesla Driver Assistance

Tesla has reported 273 vehicle crashes since July 2021 involving advanced driving assistance systems, sparking investigations including a US criminal probe over claims that the cars can drive themselves, sources told Reuters.

Tesla has said Autopilot “enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane,” while Full-Self Driving also enables vehicles to obey traffic signals and make lane changes.

SolarCity Litigation

Tesla investors are appealing an April ruling by a Delaware judge who ruled that Musk did not unjustly enrich himself when he guided the company in 2016 to acquire SolarCity, where Musk was chairman and the largest shareholder.

The investors had sought more than $10 billion (roughly Rs. 82,290 crore) in damages.

The SEC opened an investigation in December over a whistleblower complaint that Tesla failed to properly notify shareholders and the public of fire risks of its solar panel systems.

© Thomson Reuters 2022