SAN FRANCISCO -- The board chair of Tesla Inc. defended CEO Elon Musk in a securities fraud trial on Friday, telling jurors that she would have quit as a director if she had thought Musk lied by tweeting in 2018 that he had "funding secured" to take Tesla private.
Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm is a defendant in the lawsuit alongside Musk, Tesla and other directors. Investors allege they lost billions of dollars because of Musk's Aug. 7, 2018, tweets that he had "funding secured" and "investor support confirmed" to take Tesla private at $420 per share, which was a premium of about 23 percent to the prior day's close.
Tesla's stock initially surged and then fell as it became clear that the buyout would not happen.
At the time of the tweets, Denholm led Tesla's audit committee, which oversees company controls meant to ensure compliance with securities law.
She took the stand for around 30 minutes on Friday, saying that she would have quit if she had thought the tweets contained false information.
"If I believed that Elon was trying to mislead the public I would have stood down from the board," she said.
Denholm took over as board chair after Musk agreed to relinquish the role in 2018 as part of a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which alleged the tweets were fraudulent.