Tesla CEO Elon Musk apparently blasted federal regulators Thursday after striking a settlement with them to resolve accusations that he misled investors with false statements.
Musk took a not-so-subtle shot at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission — known to most people as the SEC — in a tweet.
“Just want to that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!” he said on Twitter.
Shortly after that tweet, he added another in response to someone else who suggested he should be careful about “enraging the Shortseller Enrichment Committee.”
“Sorry about the typo. That was unforgivable,” Musk said. “Why would they be upset about their mission? It’s what they do.”
Musk has long derided short sellers, who bet against a company’s stock, for their thirst for Tesla’s stock to decline.
His distaste for short sellers was viewed as a key reason why he briefly proposed taking Tesla private — a short-lived plan that he revealed on Twitter despite, the SEC said, not having lined up the funding he claimed to have gotten for the deal.
The tweets come days after Musk agreed to relinquish his Tesla chairmanship for at least three years and pay a fine. The SEC had accused him of securities fraud in a lawsuit and asked a federal judge to bar him from ever again leading a publicly traded company. He did not admit wrongdoing as part of the settlement.
The deal also calls for Tesla to pay a fine and vet any social media posts by Musk that could have a material impact on the company’s finances.
The accord must still be approved by a judge and hasn’t yet taken effect. It was not immediately clear if Musk’s Thursday tweet was approved by the company.
“It probably doesn’t affect the settlement between Musk and the SEC, because it does not deny wrongdoing and does not seem to be material company information,” said former SEC enforcement official Alma Angotti, now serving as managing director of risk and compliance at Navigant Consulting, in an email.
But the deal could affect Tesla, Angotti said.
“They promised to have controls to keep him from doing these things. Granted it has only been three days, but it may have been sensible to ask him not to tweet anything related to the company until they had an opportunity to put in the policies, procedures and controls required by the settlement,” she said.
That Musk stirred further controversy on Twitter could irk regulators, since his tweets are what prompted the SEC’s accusations.
“It bolsters the SEC’s argument that he is uncontrollable,” Angotti said. “It also bolsters the SEC argument that the motive for the false and misleading tweets about taking the company private was to thwart the short sellers.”
The SEC declined to comment Thursday. A Tesla spokesman was not immediately available to comment.
The tweet appeared to jar investors, who drove Tesla shares down 2.4 percent in after-hours trading to $275. Shares had already fallen 4.4 percent before the tweet to close at $281.83.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.
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