- Tesla shareholder attorneys poked fun at Elon Musk’s attempt to move a trial to Texas in court filing.
- Last week, Musk’s lawyer said a trial should not be held in California due to “local negativity.”
- Attorneys for the investors said the billionaire has a “knack for attracting ‘negative’ coverage.”
Lawyers in a Tesla shareholder class action lawsuit appeared to mock Elon Musk and his attempt to move the trial to another state over concerns about bad press in a court filing on Wednesday.
Last week, Musk’s lawyers contended that the billionaire’s recent purchase of Twitter has caused so much “local negativity” in California that the trial should be moved to Tesla’s new home state of Texas. Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, also requested the trial be delayed if a venue change could not be approved “to allow time [for] the passions that have been inflamed” by “recent events and biased local media coverage to dissipate.”
But lawyers for the Tesla shareholders were quick to poke fun at Spiro’s claims that press coverage was “so pervasive and inflammatory that the jurors cannot be believed when they assert that they can be impartial.”
“What they refer to as ‘biased’ coverage is, in fact, factual reporting about his management of Twitter, Inc., and has no bearing on the jury’s ability to render a fair verdict,” attorneys Adam Apton and Adam McCall wrote in a response to the motion.
Musk and a Tesla spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment from Insider ahead of publication.
The trial revolves around 2018 tweets from Musk in which the Tesla CEO said he had funding secured to take the carmaker private. After the deal failed to materialize, Musk paid a $20 million fine and settled fraud charges with the SEC for making “false and misleading statements.” Northern California District Judge Edward Chen, who is overseeing the trial, ruled last year that Musk knowingly made the false statements, which may have impacted Tesla’s share price.
The jury trial will determine whether the tweets impacted Tesla’s stock, if the company or its board should be held liable, and if investors are entitled to damages.
Musk’s attorney had also compared his media coverage to that of Jeff Bezos, adding that the Tesla CEO had dozens more stories written about him than the Amazon founder — an issue for which Tesla shareholder attorneys say Musk only has himself to blame.
“For better or worse, Musk is a celebrity who garners attention from the media around the globe,” the court filing said. “His footprint on Twitter alone is partially to blame for that. If ‘negative’ attention was all that was required to disqualify a jury pool, Musk would effectively be untriable before a jury given his knack for attracting ‘negative’ coverage.”
Apton and McCall noted recent negative headlines that had run in Texas as well, including one article from The Austin Chronicle titled “Top Embarrassing Moments of Our Worst Residents” that listed Musk as No. 1.
Musk’s attorney had also argued that the jury might have “prejudice” toward the billionaire due to reporting around the recent layoffs at Twitter. But the shareholder’s attorneys noted that out of about 200 potential jurors only about two or three said they knew someone who worked for Twitter.
The shareholders’ attorneys also said that their lawsuit, which was filed in 2018, would have never been allowed in a Texas federal court at that time because Musk’s buyout tweet occurred while Tesla was based in California and added that many of the witnesses for the trial reside in California.
The judge has scheduled a hearing for Friday morning in order to hear further arguments about the motion to move or delay the trial which is listed as 3:18-cv-04865-EMC in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.