Elon Musk cannot help himself. Just days after settling with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $20 million following his now infamous tweet about taking Tesla private at 420 per share, Musk took to twitter again this afternoon to mock the regulator. This followed news that a federal judge ordered Musk and the SEC to justify the settlement that allowed him to remain CEO of the company.
As part of the settlement which was announced over the weekend, Musk was forced to step down as Chairman of Tesla (TSLA) and both he and the company had to pay $20 million fines. It was a small price to pay for Musk and Tesla, given that investors reacted to his infamous tweet about taking the company private by bidding up the shares. His "funding secured", line implied that he indeed had private funding to take Tesla private and the valuation was higher than Tesla's share price at the time. A week later, Musk, in a letter to employees and shareholders, said he had scrapped the plan given the blow-back from investors and the potential complexity of the deal. The SEC and other investors sued Musk for the loss of shareholder value cause by the privatization fake out. While the SEC's original lawsuit was civil, there was a possibility that it could file a criminal lawsuit against him. Last weekend's settlement seemed to put those fears to rest.
We've summed up the events leading up the lawsuit here.
All of this makes today's tweet seem unnecessary. Shares of Tesla rallied Monday as investors seemed to think the settlement quieted concerns on the legal front, at least for now. That rally faded through the week, and the stock fell more than 4 percent today, and another 2 percent in after-hours. The sell-off was commensurate with a broader sell-off in the U.S. Markets, but the after-hours declines may have been exacerbated by Musk's poke at the SEC. While not naming the SEC directly, his play on its acronym, "Shortseller Enrichment Commission", leaves little doubt who he was targeting.
Musk is a brilliant innovator and entrepreneur who has likely changed the automotive industry in profound ways. He has built a company admired by many and made himself and many shareholders a lot of money, in the process. Many of those investors likely wish he would focus on the things he is great at instead of picking fights with his doubters and sticking a finger in the eye of the regulator who just gave him a pass on some seriously irresponsible behavior. That does not seem likely.