Elon Musk’s public venting about the US Securities and Exchange Commission at a TED talk went too far and a judge should make him shut up, according to investors who are suing the billionaire and Tesla.
The electric car maker CEO’s caustic comments about the federal regulator threaten to taint a jury trial set for late May in San Francisco over shareholder claims that Musk defrauded them when he tweeted in 2018 about taking the company private, the investors said in a court filing late on Friday.
“The gratuitous and apparently premeditated nature of Musk’s comments and his flagrant disregard of the opinions of the SEC, this court and his own written consent strongly suggest that Musk is likely to continue making similar statements up to trial,” the investors said.
The investors took particular umbrage at comments by the world’s richest person during a TED event this week in Vancouver. He said he was “forced to concede to the SEC unlawfully” and settle the agency’s lawsuit alleging that the 2018 tweets were fraudulent. He also said the pressure he faced to settle was “like having a gun to your child’s head”.
The shareholders urged US district judge Edward Chen to order the multi-billionaire to keep his opinions to himself until after trial, lest he confuse potential jurors.
“Such confusion could taint any further determinations that the jury may need to make, such as the liability of Tesla and its board or the amount of damages owed by Musk and the other defendants,” lawyers for the investors wrote.
Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Musk and Tesla, responded on Saturday. “Nothing will ever change the truth which is that Elon Musk was considering taking Tesla private and could have,” he said. “All that’s left some half a decade later is random plaintiffs’ lawyers trying to make a buck and others trying to block that truth from coming to light, all to the detriment of free speech.”