We reported previously on a lawsuit filed by Tesla against former oil services firm exec Todd Katz, who’s been accused by Tesla of impersonating CEO Elon Musk in an email sent to Tesla CTO Jason Wheeler.
That email, sent to Wheeler on the day that Tesla disclosed its 2nd quarter financial results (August 3), was sent from the email address ElonTesla@yahoo.com. The email requested further information on the company’s financial performance.
Specifically, it read: “Why you so cautious w Q3/4 guidance on call. What is ur best guess as to where we actually come in on q3/4 deliverables. Honest best guess. no bs.”
Seemingly, it was a very amateurish attempt to gain inside information. Katz is now trying to use the amateurish quality of the attempt as his defense, claiming that the lawsuit should be tossed as the email was too “goofy” to be seen as credible.
Maybe so, but that doesn’t mean that Katz’s motives weren’t to gain inside information. Personally I have a hard time reading the email and seeing it as a joke, especially when you consider Katz’s position at the time as CFO for Quest Integrity Group LLC, an oil industry group.
Consider also that Katz has described himself previously as a “critic of Tesla’s financial performance.”
Interestingly, Katz has alleged in a counter-complaint that Tesla sent someone to a Best Buy near Tesla’s Fremont facility the day after the email was sent to hack Katz’s Twitter account “in order to illegally obtain and use information to identify Katz, publicly embarrass and silence him, and discourage other critics.”
Tesla responded in an email to Bloomberg following a request for comment: “The oil executive Todd Katz is perfectly capable of embarrassing himself with no help from Tesla. We did not even know that the Twitter pseudonym in question belonged to Mr Katz.”
Katz’s recent filing reads: “Nobody who received this preposterous and grammatically deficient e-mail ever believed that it really came from Elon Musk. Despite the fact that Tesla had posted significant losses for sixteen straight quarters, it has elected to spend its investors’ funds to pursue this petty, ill-conceived lawsuit.”
Bloomberg provides more: “Katz contends nothing about the e-mail — the grammar and syntax, the Yahoo address, and the use of ’em’ as a signoff — would have led anyone who knows Musk to believe he wrote the message. Tesla has no basis for claiming it suffered any injury from the solitary e-mail and the company’s ensuing internal probe to figure out who sent it, Katz said.”
The filing continued: “Any expenses that Tesla incurred as a result of this investigation (as with the expenses Tesla incurred by hiring a prominent former federal prosecutor to file this lawsuit), were caused instead by Tesla’s decision to spare no expense in exposing and punishing the sender of this phony and absurd e-mail.”
As a side note, Katz reportedly quit his position at Quest Integrity Group shortly after Tesla filed its lawsuit on September 14. In that filing, Tesla claimed that the email was part of concerted oil-industry effort against Tesla and EVs. Quest Integrity Group publicly claimed that this was “absurd” and that it would be investigating Katz itself as well.
The case, for those interested, is: Tesla Motors Inc. v. Katz, 16CV299916, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).