Over the weekend, Elon Musk and Tesla settled a lawsuit with the Securities and Exchange Commission over a tweet that federal regulators said misled the electric-car company’s investors and agitated financial markets. The agreement compels Musk to step down from his role as chairman of Tesla’s board for three years, but allows him to remain as CEO. It instructs Musk and Tesla to each pay $20 million in fines. And it requires Tesla to establish stricter oversight over Musk’s communications.
That last stipulation is an attempt to ensure that something like the rogue tweet Musk sent in August—the one that no one saw coming, that stunned investors, that the SEC has described as inaccurate and has determined qualified as securities fraud—would never happen again.
The terms have yet to take effect. The settlement is subject to court approval, which is under way. And Teddy Schleifer, a reporter at Recode, writes that the provision regarding the monitoring of Musk’s communications goes into effect 90 days after the date the settlement was reached. Musk has about 80 more days to tweet what he wants about Tesla, and he appears to be taking advantage of the lag.
On Thursday, Musk, in an apparent attempt to mock the SEC, put his own twist on the agency’s initialism that takes aim at short sellers, a class of investors who have long been a prickly thorn in the entrepreneur’s side:
Just want to that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 4, 2018
The tweet may come as a surprise to those who think that making fun of federal regulators a week after they sued you may not be the wisest tactic. It probably does not come as a surprise to those who have been following Musk’s snark-laced tweets about his critics, whether they’re the investors who bet against Tesla or the reporters who cover it. It suggests that instead of hunkering down, he’s probably going to tweet right through.