Elon Musk is back in the headlines. The Tesla Inc. (TSLA) CEO, who was embroiled in several controversies and faced sharp criticism for his erratic behavior this past year, appeared on CBS News's "60 Minutes" on Sunday, December 9, 2018.
In a wide-ranging interview, Musk lashed out at the SEC, with which he signed a deal after he was charged with fraud, talked about leaving his home country at 17 with a backpack of clothes and a suitcase of books, rejected the charges filed by the United Auto Workers and described how he set and met the production target of 5,000 Model 3s a week to make Tesla profitable.
Here are the biggest takeaways from his interview:
1. Tweets Are Not Being Vetted
Investors and regulators may not be very pleased to learn that no one is reading the CEO's tweets before he hits publish, despite the SEC settlement requiring "additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk’s communications" be put in place.
The chief executive, who described Twitter as a "warzone," said only tweets that have the potential to move the company's stock need to be reviewed. But since no one else at Tesla is reading all of them before they get sent, the decision to have a tweet reviewed is presumably left completely up to Musk. When this was pointed out, he joked, "Well, I guess we might make some mistakes. Who knows?"
According to the SEC's complaint, "Tesla had no disclosure controls or procedures in place to determine whether Musk’s tweets contained information required to be disclosed in Tesla’s SEC filings. Nor did it have sufficient processes in place to that Musk’s tweets were accurate or complete." It's unclear if anything has truly changed since the settlement.
Soon after the interview was aired, Tesla released a statement to the media that said the settlement is being complied with and "this includes having a policy (which technically needs to be in place by Dec. 28) that requires pre-approval of any communications that reasonably could contain material information."
2. Musk Will Not Be Babysat
“I want to be clear. I do not respect the SEC," said Musk during the interview. But he claims he is abiding by the settlement, which required him to step down as chairman, because he respects the justice system.
However, he rejected the idea that the new Tesla chair, Robyn Denholm, can supervise him.
"It's not realistic in the sense that I am the largest shareholder in the company. And I can just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want," he said.
He also added that he has no interest in being chairman again.
3. Buying More GM Factories a Possibility
Back in 2010, Tesla bought a plant in Fremont, California jointly operated by General Motors Co. (GM) and Toyota for a bargain price of $42 million.
After General Motors' recent restructuring announcement, there is a possibility of this happening again, says Musk.
When asked if he would buy some of the plants being closed down, the CEO said, "It's possible that we would be interested. If they were going to sell a plant or not use it that we would take it over."
4. Shortsellers Blindsided by Tent, Says Musk
Musk addressed the "relentless criticism" Tesla has faced and the unconventional decision he believes thwarted shortsellers when the company was struggling to meet its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 vehicles per week.
"So those, you know, betting against the company were right by all conventional standards that we would fail," he said. "But they just did not count on this unconventional situation of creating an assembly line in a parking lot in a tent."