Elon Musk could lose control of Tesla due to fraud charge

by Jimi Beckwith, Autocar UK 28 Sep 2018

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Tesla CEO Elon Musk with securities fraud, stating that his recent tweets about taking the company private were “false and misleading”.  

In the tweets, Musk claimed that funding had been secured to take Tesla private at $420 (Rs 30,444) per share – 20 percent higher than Tesla shares were trading at the time. 

The SEC accuses Musk of not having discussed deal terms with any funding partners, where Musk alleged that the only step remaining in the process was putting the move to a shareholder vote. 

"He allegedly knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies," stated the SEC’s complaint. "Musk’s tweets caused Tesla’s stock price to jump by more than 6 percent on 7 August and led to significant market disruption.” 

Musk later went back on the decision to delist the electric car maker, saying: “Given the feedback I’ve received, it’s apparent that most of Tesla’s existing shareholders believe we're better off as a public company.

"Additionally, a number of institutional shareholders have explained that they have internal compliance issues that limit how much they can invest in a private company.”

The SEC aims to have Musk removed from his post at Tesla and barred from serving as an officer or director at a public company. This announcement led to Tesla stock diving 13 percent to $270 (Rs 19,587), reports Bloomberg.

Steven Peikin, co-director of the SEC’s enforcement division, said: “Corporate officers hold positions of trust in our markets and have important responsibilities to shareholders. An officer’s celebrity status or reputation as a technological innovator does not give license to take those responsibilities lightly.”

The SEC is holding an ongoing investigation into the findings. 

In a statement, Musk said: “This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed. I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way.”

Tesla’s board of directors added: “Tesla and the board of directors are fully confident in Elon, his integrity and his leadership of the company, which has resulted in the most successful US auto company in over a century.”

Also read: Tesla boss Musk considers taking firm private