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As SEC investigates Musk’s tweet, Musk will likely have to recuse himself from Tesla’s buyout talks

Elon Musk

Given some of the outlandish remarks Elon Musk has a penchant for making on Twitter, it can sometimes be difficult to discern when the Tesla CEO is being serious and when he’s simply having a little bit of fun. Most recently, Muskk had the tech and automotive worlds scratching their collective heads after tweeting that he would consider taking Tesla private should the stock reach $420 a share. What’s more, Musk indicated that he had already secured funding for such an eventuality.

While ostensibly a joke, Musk wasn’t playing around. A few hours after the tweet went up, Tesla published an internal email that was sent to Tesla employees which outlined the benefits of taking the company private.

The letter reads in part:

First, a final decision has not yet been made, but the reason for doing this is all about creating the environment for Tesla to operate best. As a public company, we are subject to wild swings in our stock price that can be a major distraction for everyone working at Tesla, all of whom are shareholders. Being public also subjects us to the quarterly earnings cycle that puts enormous pressure on Tesla to make decisions that may be right for a given quarter, but not necessarily right for the long-term. Finally, as the most shorted stock in the history of the stock market, being public means that there are large numbers of people who have the incentive to attack the company.

The reference to the company’s stock is particularly relevant because Tesla shares immediately skyrocketed in the wake of Musk’s tweet. At the same time, Musk’s behavior could easily be framed as illicit stock market manipulation. In turn, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to learn that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now looking into the matter. Though nothing more than a preliminary investigation for the time being, the SEC will be exploring whether or not Musk’s statement was made in earnest.

Bloomberg reports:

Musk’s initial post on a possible buyout probably wouldn’t be enough to put him in legal jeopardy unless it proved to be false or inaccurate, according to securities lawyers.

Tesla hasn’t disclosed any sources of financing for the deal and no one has stepped forward publicly to say they’re backing the plan.

At the same time, Tesla’s board is taking Musk’s plan to take the company private at face value and, according to CNBC, will reportedly meet to discuss it next week with select advisers. The report adds that Musk will likely be asked to recuse himself from said discussions. Incidentally, taking Tesla private at $420 a share would necessitate a $70+ billion buyout, a gargantuan figure to say the least. While Musk claimed that funding is secured, additional details on the matter remain scarce.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.