Tesla Inc. (TSLA) and its outspoken Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk were slapped with two class-action lawsuits over Musk’s series of tweets last week in which he announced a plan to take the company private.
His comments in which he said he is considering taking the green car maker private for $420 a share shocked Wall Street and sent Tesla stock surging. Since the series of Tweets and a letter to employees in which Musk laid out his thought process, there has been silence on the topic from both Musk and the company. That has led to inquiries by the Securities and Exchange Commission into the situation and now two class-action lawsuits by investors who USA Today reported contend the company violated federal securities laws via the tweets. (See more: What If Tesla Goes Private?)
Shorts Harmed On Purpose Lawsuit Claims
In one of the two lawsuits, which was filed in federal court in San Francisco by Kalman Issacs, the plaintiff contends Tesla and Musk "embarked on a scheme and course of conduct to artificially manipulate the price of Tesla stock to completely decimate the company’s short-sellers.” The lawsuit alleges the tweets sent the stock up $45.47 above the stock’s closing price the day earlier which cost short sellers, or those that bet a stock will go lower with borrowed shares, billions of dollars in mark-to-market losses. The lawsuits also claim Musk hasn’t lined up the financing necessary to take Tesla private and therefore made false statements.
In laying out why he is considering taking Tesla private, Musk pointed in part to shorts. “As a public company, we are subject to wild swings in our stock price that can be a major distraction for everyone working at Tesla, all of whom are shareholders," Musk wrote, according to Forbes. He also said that by taking the electric vehicle company private it would end "negative propaganda from shorts." Tesla is currently the most-shorted U.S. stock and even with short sellers taking a beating in recent days, they have been holding steady with their bets. If Tesla were to go private it would alleviate some pressure for the company that is closely followed. (See more: Tesla Go-Private Talk Cost Shorts Another $1.5B.)
Second Lawsuit Claims Musk Misled Investors
In a separate class-action lawsuit also filed in federal court in San Francisco, William Chamberlain contends Musk “materially” misled investors between August 7 and August 10 claiming investor support for the deal was secured and that the funding was in place.
According to a CNBC report last week, the Tesla board is expected to meet this week to go over the offer and is expected to ask Musk to recuse himself and to hire his own set of advisors. CNBC cited unnamed sources which said the board is likely to create a special committee made up of a small group of independent directors to look at the buyout offer. Meanwhile, sources told Reuters last week that the board had already had talks about the Musk proposal and is seeking information about the funding.