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Court hears appeal of ruling favoring Elon Musk in 2016 SolarCity deal

By Oliver Davis
Published in SolarCity
March 31, 2023
1 min read
Court hears appeal of ruling favoring Elon Musk in 2016 SolarCity deal

A federal court has reconsidered a 2019 ruling that favored Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, in a lawsuit over Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of SolarCity, a renewable energy company where Musk served as chairman. Some Tesla shareholders have challenged the deal, arguing that Musk influenced the board’s decision to buy SolarCity, causing Tesla to overpay for the struggling company. In response, Musk claimed that the acquisition was part of his “master plan” to provide a one-stop shop for clean energy consumers, including electric vehicles, rooftop solar panels, and battery storage. However, the plaintiffs accused Musk of leveraging his personal influence to rescue SolarCity, which was founded by his cousins and faced financial difficulties due to declining market share and heavy debt. The case is being heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which will decide whether to uphold the lower court’s decision or overturn it. The outcome of the case could have significant implications for Tesla, which has already faced scrutiny over its accounting practices and governance structure. The case also underscores the debate over the conflict of interest for corporate leaders who have multiple roles and financial interests. Critics argue that Musk’s dual role as the CEO of Tesla and the chairman of SolarCity created a conflict of interest that harmed Tesla shareholders, while supporters contend that Musk acted in the best interests of the company and had the right to express his vision for the future. Ultimately, the ruling could shape the future of sustainable energy and corporate governance, as well as Musk’s role in both spheres.

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