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Elon Musk Among Witnesses Expected to Take the Stand This Week in Tesla Tweet Trial

Elon Musk is among the expected witnesses to appear this week in the ongoing federal trial accusing him of deceptively driving up the price of Tesla stock by tweeting about taking the company private, which never happened.

The August 2018 tweet in question stated that Musk had “secured” funding to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The company’s stock was slumping at the time due to production problems.

Tesla shareholders filed a class-action lawsuit suing Musk for billions of dollars in damages for money investors say they lost after the tweet inflated share price. The trial, taking place in San Francisco, is expected to last for three weeks. 

Investor Glen Littleton from Kansas City, Missouri, is seeking damages on behalf of shareholders who traded the company’s stock in the days after Musk’s tweet. 

Littleton had purchased Tesla investments with hopes that the automaker’s stock would eventually be worth far more than $420. Upon seeing Musk’s tweet, he felt compelled to sell his Tesla stock options since he knew the completed deal would have rendered them worthless. 

He stated he sold off most of his Tesla positions to try and limit his losses, but even after doing so, the value of his Tesla portfolio plunged by 75%.

“The damage was done. I was in a state of shock.”

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The case’s outcome may depend on whether Musk knowingly raised Tesla’s stock price by tweeting that he had secured money for a $72 billion takeover of the business. The stock plummeted in value when it became apparent that he lacked the funding to complete the deal a week later. 

On Wednesday, Nicholas Porritt, lead attorney for the investors, told the trial’s jury of nine that “millions of dollars were lost when his lies were exposed.” 

“Why are we here? We are here because Elon Musk, chairman and chief executive of Tesla, lied. His lies caused regular people like Glen Littleton to lose millions and millions of dollars.” 

Porritt also pointed out that not only did Musk’s tweet cause investors to lose money, but it also affected pension funds and other organizations that owned Tesla stock.

The trial’s presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, has already ruled that Musk’s tweet was false and reckless. 

Porritt took advantage of the judge’s verdict and told the jury they should presume Musk’s tweet was false, which the judge permitted.

“When the CEO of a public company like Tesla lies about his company and hurts investors, it’s critical that he is held accountable for that harm that he causes.”

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In his opening statements, Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro insisted that Musk was “serious” about the buyout when he tweeted about securing funding.

“You will come to learn very soon that this was not fraud, not even close.”

Spiro argued that the rise in Tesla’s stock price after the tweet was due to investors’ faith in Musk’s capabilities and reputation as a visionary.

“Mr. Musk tries to do things that have never been done before. Everyone knows that.”

According to Spiro, Musk and representatives from the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia had already discussed taking Tesla private.

“He didn’t plan to tweet this. It was a split-second decision.”

Spiro said Musk used the “wrong words” in a rush to be transparent about the potential deal with the Saudi fund.

Musk is on the witness list for both sides of the case. Porritt told The Associated Press that Musk is expected to take the stand when the trial resumes on Friday, if time permits, or on Monday.

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Elon Musk Plans Widescale Layoffs Across Twitter

Shortly after assuming control of Twitter, Elon Musk ordered managers to draft a list of employees to be laid off, according to four people who declined to be identified out of fear of retaliation. The company currently employs around 7,500 people.

Musk bought Twitter for $44 billion and took the company private on Thursday once the deal was completed. He informed investors that he planned to trim its workforce significantly, open the platform to more advertising, and implement lenient content moderation policies.

The layoffs will likely occur before Nov. 1. Employees designated for termination would have received stock grants as part of their compensation on that date. Typically, grants constitute a substantial portion of employee pay. If Musk terminates workers before that date, he may avoid paying out the awards, although the current merger deal requires him to pay the employees in cash in place of stock for “any equity that would have vested within three months from their last day at the company.”

Ross Gerber, CEO of Gerber Kawasaki Wealth & Investment Management, reported that Jared Birchall, head of Musk’s family office, informed him that layoffs were imminent. His company contributed less than $1 million to help finance Musk’s takeover of Twitter.

“I was told to expect somewhere around 50 percent of people will be laid off.”

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Musk arrived at the company’s San Francisco headquarters on Wednesday and assumed control on Thursday, immediately firing several Twitter executives. Chief executive officer Parag Agarwal, chief financial officer Ned Segal, former general counsel Sean Edgett, and former policy and legal executive Vijaya Gadde were among those let go.

It is improbable that Musk will pay the complete severance package of $20 million to $60 million planned for the executives. Musk fired the executives “for cause,” which could render the severance agreement invalid.

He also informed advertisers of his intention to transform Twitter into the “most respected advertising platform in the world.” Musk initially indicated that he wanted the platform to be a haven for “free speech.” However, he has revealed that he intends to organize a council to determine content moderation procedures and has yet to decide which previously banned high-profile accounts, such as former President Donald Trump’s account, will be reinstated. 

He reassured advertisers with a tweet addressed to them that “Twitter obviously cannot become a free-for-all hellscape, where anything can be said with no consequences!”

“The reason I acquired Twitter is because it is important to the future of civilization to have a common digital town square, where a wide range of beliefs can be debated in a healthy manner, without resorting to violence. There is currently great danger that social media will splinter into far-right wing and far left-wing echo chambers that generate more hate and divide our society.”

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The Verge reports that Musk is also considering charging users $20 per month to maintain their blue check mark and verified account status. Musk told some employees that they needed to prepare to implement the new feature by Nov. 7 or they would be fired from their position at Twitter. One employee said Musk utilizes “textbook dictator tactics: sowing fear and confusion.”

Twitter users are concerned that the lack of content moderation could lead to an increase in misinformation and hate speech. On Sunday, Musk himself tweeted a link to a website circulating a baseless conspiracy theory about the Oct. 28 attack on Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi. He has since deleted the tweet. Many prominent users, such as New York Times columnist Charles Blow and actress Jameela Jamil, have stated that they will abandon the platform now that Musk owns it.

NBA star LeBron James tweeted about a report by the Network Contagion Research Institute, which showed that racial slurs on the platform increased by nearly 500 percent in the 12 hours after Musk’s Twitter acquisition was finalized.

“I don’t know Elon Musk and, tbh, I could care less who owns Twitter. But I will say that if this is true, I hope he and his people take this very seriously because this is scary. “

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Judge Rules Elon Musk Can Use Whistleblower Claims in Twitter Lawsuit

Twitter paid $7 million to former security chief Peiter Zatko before he filed a whistleblower complaint against the company. A judge has ruled that Zatko’s allegations can be part of Elon Musk’s defense in his legal battle with Twitter.

Zatko alleges the social media giant covered up known security issues and used weak safeguarding measures to protect its users’ sensitive data.

The settlement between Zatko and Twitter occurred before Zatko filed his whistleblower complaint in July and concerned Zatko’s lost compensation after being fired from the company in January. It contained a nondisclosure agreement restricting him from speaking poorly about the company or releasing information about his time as cybersecurity head at Twitter.

The settlement contained a clause that allows him to speak at congressional hearings and governmental whistleblower complaints, as many NDAs do.

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On Tuesday, Zatko will testify before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee about his knowledge of the security flaws in Twitter’s infrastructure. Zatko claims that he “uncovered extreme, egregious deficiencies by Twitter in every area of his mandate.”

Employees had access to integral company software, which led to the “commandeering of accounts” held by high-profile figures. Several heads of state, government officials and well-known celebrities have long used the website to communicate with the public.

Since July, Musk has been trying to back out of his deal to buy the company for $44 billion. Twitter has begun a legal battle against him, citing Musk’s bad faith in breaching his contract with the company. In a 62-page legal document, Twitter documented Musk’s behavior throughout the ordeal with colorful language and photos of his many tweets regarding the acquisition.

“Having mounted a public spectacle to put Twitter in play and having proposed and then signed a seller-friendly merger agreement, Musk apparently believes that he—unlike every other party subject to Delaware contract law—is free to change his mind, trash the company, disrupt its operations, destroy stockholder value and walk away.”

Musk’s lawyers plan to use the information Zatko divulged about Twitter’s security vulnerabilities as a central part of their case. Twitter’s shareholders will also cast votes on Musk’s takeover of the company Tuesday.

Musk’s defense to back out of the acquisition is that the company did not disclose the number of bots its userbase contains, tweeting, “Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/fake accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users.”

The timeline of Musk’s tech deal with Twitter is erratic and turbulent. The lawsuit document cites many of Musk’s posted memes and tweets, which Twitter’s legal team will use to show how Musk treated the process as an “elaborate joke.” At one point, he responded to a Twitter thread by Twitter’s CEO Parag Agarwal, which explains Twitter’s handling of spam accounts, with a “poop emoji.”

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On April 4, Musk was revealed to be Twitter’s largest shareholder at 9% of the company’s shares.

On April 5, CEO Parag Agarwal announced that Musk would join Twitter’s board of directors with the agreement that Musk could not acquire more than 15% of shares before 2024. Musk had been purchasing shares since January.

On April 10, Agarwal revealed that Musk would no longer be joining the board.

On April 14, Musk offered to buy the remaining Twitter shares for $41.4 billion. In response to this, Twitter adopted a “poison-pill strategy,” which allows other shareholders to buy more shares at a discounted rate if a person or entity purchases more than a certain percentage of common stock without the board’s approval. It is used to prevent a company takeover by a hostile buyer.

On April 25, Twitter agreed to sell itself to Musk for $44 billion.

On May 13, Musk tweeted that the deal was temporarily on hold, citing his concerns about spam accounts. Shares of the company immediately plummeted.

On July 8, Musk tried to terminate the acquisition agreement.

On July 12, Twitter sued Musk for failing to meet contractual obligations.

Zatko’s complaint supports Musk’s allegations about the percentage of bots the website’s user base contains.

“There are many millions of active accounts that are not considered “mDAU,” either because they are spam bots or because Twitter does not believe it can monetize them. These millions of non-mDAU accounts are part of the median user’s experience on the platform. And for this vast set of non-mDAU active accounts, Musk is correct: Twitter executives have little or no personal incentive to accurately “detect” or measure the prevalence of spam bots.”

Twitter believes that Musk started to back out of the deal when Tesla stocks began to decline due to stock market trends. Most of Musk’s wealth is not liquid, and he was planning to finance most of the deal with Twitter using Tesla stock.

Twitter on Phone

Twitter Chief Executive, Jack Dorsey, Raises Concerns Among Employees After Month Of Crisis

Jack Dorsey is the part-time chief executive of Twitter, a position he’s held for many years now. After years of acquiring what’s referred to as “technical debt,” Twitter has been left extremely vulnerable on the back-end.