Lawsuits accuse Elon Musk of fraud, proposal to make Tesla private

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Tesla and Chief Executive Elon Musk were sued twice on Friday by investors who said they fraudulently engineered a scheme to squeeze short-sellers, including through Musk’s proposal to take the electric car firm private.

The lawsuits were filed three days after Musk stunned investors by announcing on Twitter that he might take in a record $72 billion transactions that valued the firm at $420 per share, and that “funding” had been “secured”.

In one of the lawsuits, the plaintiff said Musk’s tweets were false and misleading, and together with Tesla’s failure to correct them amounted to a “nuclear attack” designed to “completely decimate” short-sellers.

The lawsuits filed by Isaacs and William Chamberlain said Musk’s and Tesla’s conduct artificially inflated Tesla’s equity price and violated federal securities laws.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on the proposed class-action complaints filed in the federal court in San Francisco. The firm is based in nearby Palo Alto, California.

Short-sellers borrow shares they believe are overpriced, sell them, and then repurchase shares later at what they hope will be a lower price to make a profit.

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Such investors have long been an irritant for Musk, who has from time to time used Twitter to criticise them.

Musk’s August 7 tweets helped push Tesla’s equity price more than 13 per cent above the prior day’s close.

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The stock has since given back more than two-thirds of that gain, in part following reports that the US Securities and Exchange Commission had begun inquiring about Musk’s activity.

Musk has not offered evidence that he has lined up the needed funding to take Tesla private, and the complaints did not offer proof to the contrary.

But Isaacs said Tesla’s and Musk’s conduct caused the volatility that cost short-sellers hundreds of millions of dollars from having to cover their short positions, and caused all Tesla securities purchasers to pay inflated prices.

Tesla’s market value exceeds $60 billion, and its shares closed Friday up $3.04 at $355.49.

According to his complaint, Isaacs bought 3,000 Tesla shares on August 8 to cover his short position.

The proposed class timeframe in Isaacs’ lawsuit runs from the afternoon of August 7 through the next day, and in Chamberlain’s lawsuit runs from August 7 to August 10.

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