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Elon Musk has played poker

The stock exchange regulator demands that Musk give up the management of the Tesla group. It would not be much more than an automaker with huge debts.

Walter Niederberger, San Francisco

The verdict of the stock exchange supervisory authority is only directed against Elon Musk. From the point of view of the supervisory authority, he cheated the investors with a thoughtless tweet and should therefore permanently give up the management of Tesla. So the future of Tesla is at stake. Without Musk, the heavily indebted automaker will struggle to raise funds and appease the nervous supplier companies.

The reaction on the stock market yesterday showed that the Musk premium is already melting. Investors dropped Tesla shares by twelve percent and valued the company at around $ 49 billion, only slightly higher than the country's largest auto company, General Motors. But the surcharge that Musk triggered with his tweet about the privatization of Tesla has now completely disappeared.

On August 7th, he announced completely surprisingly that he would withdraw Tesla from the public marketplace after 15 years on the stock exchange in order to escape the pressure to perform and expectations on the stock exchange as well as the grasp of envious investors. He promised a buyback price of $ 420 per share and claims to have secured the necessary funds - around $ 20 billion - from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund and other investors. Shares immediately skyrocketed, temporarily making Musk an even wealthier man.

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That made the stock exchange regulators prick up their ears. At this point in time, it was already ascertaining because of the production forecasts that had been exaggerated several times. But now Musk's tweet provided exactly the evidence that the SEC needed for fraud proceedings.

Cannabis number as a target value

The case was clearly clear, as the regulator completed the investigation in just two months. Musk knew, despite claims to the contrary, that his privatization plan had not been secured and that no investor had given a firm commitment, the regulator writes.

The buyback value of $ 420 per share was also inspired by Musk's hash consumption. 420 in American cannabis folklore refers to a meeting of early hash users at 4:20 p.m. Musk wanted to amuse his girlfriend with this allusion, says the SEC, "not a good reason for determining the price."

Musk would have had the chance to settle the dispute out of court. The SEC allegedly offered him a hefty fine, but Musk turned it down at the last minute. Why he did this is not clear, but in the opinion of business lawyers he may have speculated that the agency would not dare to move to an indictment and a trial.

Musk rejects judgment

This assumption is not entirely unfounded, as the SEC in San Francisco has long suffered from a shortage of qualified personnel, because young talent is often lured away by the tech companies in Silicon Valley with far higher wages and better career prospects.

For example, Apple got away twice without sanctions in 2007 and 2009, despite the fact that the company, under the leadership of Steve Jobs, illegally backdated stock options, thereby enriching the management, and because the poor health of Jobs was withheld from investors.

Musk rejects the verdict. “I am deeply saddened and disappointed by the SEC's unjustified actions. Integrity is the greatest value in my life, and the facts will show that I have never compromised it. " The Board of Directors gave him full support yesterday.

Tesla is making headway

The lawsuit reaches Tesla at a bad time. For the first time, the automaker appears to be fully on track in the current quarter. After he had announced the production of 50,000 to 55,000 Model 3 cars, 51,000 models had already rolled off the assembly line up to two days before the deadline, according to the online specialist magazine “Electrek”.

The target appears to have been met, and Tesla urgently needs it. After 15 years, the Model 3 should finally bring the company above breakeven and allow it to reduce the mountain of debt of ten billion dollars.

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