Musk Mondays: Pesky Business

By: Dowdy White, Fall 2018 IAC Student Intern

I’ve always heard that if you aren’t able to say something nice, then it’s best to say nothing at all. This phrase was always especially applicable when I got in trouble as a child. As soon as I opened my mouth to say something “smart” back to my parents, my punishment would just get infinitely worse. While I took this lesson to heart, some people still take a shot at insulting or demeaning the authority figure when he or she gets into hot water.

One of the most notable examples of this type of situation is Elon Musk and his feud with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. On October 4, 2018, weeks after the SEC filed a complaint against Musk and Tesla for a variety of reasons, Musk sent out a sarcastic tweet stating: “Just want to [say] that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!”

After sending out this tweet, Musk then turned around and partnered with the SEC to urge a federal judge to approve the terms of the proposed consent judgment that would require Musk to resign as Tesla’s chairman and personally pay a $20 million fine to the SEC. Tesla would also be required to pay a separate $20 million fine, which the SEC said will be “returned to investors.”

Many people consider this settlement agreement between Musk and the SEC to be a way in which Musk easily gets off the hook for his selfish actions. In fact, the top reply to Musk’s sarcastic tweet to the SEC states: “Seriously? You know you still need their help convincing a judge that your penalty was sufficient… Maybe a 420M fine would have been more appropriate?” Ouch.

Why would you send out a tweet just to annoy the governing agency that is actively trying to help you navigate your way through serious legal charges just for the heck of it? I don’t know the answer to this question. However, I do know that openly disparaging federal regulators who just charged you with fraud and sought to ban you from your company takes defiance to a whole new level. It’s simply not a good look. Why burn your already short fuse for no reason?

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