Tesla tycoon Elon Musk will take the stand on Wednesday as part of a trial over his $50 billion pay package as Chief Executive Officer of the electric car giant.
The $44 billion purchase of Twitter has put Musk under a deluge of scrutiny after he conducted massive layoffs, scared advertisers, and opened the platform to fake accounts.
The unrelated Tesla case is based on a complaint by shareholder Richard Tornetta, who accused Musk and the company’s board of directors of failing in their duties when they authorized the pay plan.
Tornetta alleged that Musk dictated his terms to directors who were not sufficiently independent from their star CEO to object to a package worth around $51 billion at recent share prices.
The Tesla shareholder accused Musk of “unjustified enrichment” and asked for the annulment of a pay programme that helped make the entrepreneur the richest man in the world.
According to a legal filing, Musk earned the equivalent of $52.4 billion in Tesla stock options over four and a half years after virtually all of the company’s targets were met.
When the plan was adopted, it was valued at a total of $56 billion.
The non-jury trial began Monday with testimony from Ira Ehrenpreis, head of the compensation committee on Tesla’s board of directors, who said the targets set were “extraordinarily ambitious and difficult”.
Ehrenpreis argued that the board wanted to spur Musk to focus on Tesla at a time when the company was still struggling to gain traction.
The trial will run through Friday and is being presided over by Judge Kathaleen McCormick, the same judge who was to preside over the Twitter case.