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The Tesla-SolarCity Trial Got Elon Musk Speaking

As he wrapped up his second and final day of intense questioning over Tesla Inc.’s 2016 takeover of SolarCity, Elon Musk managed to keep his cool. Musk, the case’s first and most crucial witness during his eight hours on the stand, frequently sparred with the plaintiffs’ lawyer. But there were no dramatic moments from one of the company’s most outspoken CEOs.

At the time of the acquisition, the world’s second-richest man was chairman and major shareholder of both firms. The trial focuses on how much of a role he played in persuading his board and shareholders to support it. The suit’s principal plaintiffs, investors, and pension funds claim that Musk and Tesla’s board of directors broke their fiduciary duties by agreeing to a takeover of the then-struggling rooftop solar panel installer.

Musk is the sole defendant in the case. Last year, the remainder of the board settled for $60 million. The experiment is expected to last two weeks in total. If Musk prevails and the judge rules that the transaction was legal, it will be yet another case of Teflon Elon mostly evading penalties. Musk could be forced to pay back the roughly $2 billion that Tesla paid for SolarCity out of his pocket if he loses.

It would also tarnish his image as a tech tycoon who almost always gets his way. Plaintiffs’ lawyer Randy Baron spent much of Tuesday questioning Musk about his participation in negotiating the SolarCity pricing and showing snippets from filmed depositions of bankers engaged in the $2 billion purchase. Musk said he had no involvement in the board’s evaluation of the SolarCity transaction in his testimony Monday. Still, Baron said Tuesday that he paid lawyers to steer the deal through, even though the Tesla board wasn’t interested at the time.

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