Did He Do It to Crush the Shorts? SEC Reportedly Probing if Tesla CEO Elon Musk Misled Investors to Hurt Critics

Tesla CEO Elon Musk who has tweeted about vague plans to take the company private
Getty/Robyn Beck

The Securities and Exchange Commission is working to determine if CEO Elon Musk’s tweets about taking the electric car company private were designed to cause financial harm to short sellers, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

Further, the SEC wants to know the depth to which Musk briefed Tesla’s board of directors about taking the Palo Alto company private before his August 7 tweets regarding the proposal.

“Last week, short-sellers betting against Tesla lost big after the CEO tweeted about taking the company private. Tesla shares rose 11 percent following Musk’s tweet Tuesday, meaning short sellers lost about $1.3 billion in mark-to-market losses, according to estimates from financial technology and analytics firm S3 Partners,” CNBC reports.

On Friday, Kalman Isaacs and William Chamberlain filed complaints against Tesla in a federal court in San Francisco, accusing its founder and CEO of artificially boosting his company’s stock price in an attempt to hurt short sellers.

Isaacs’ lawsuit states: “It is clear that Defendant Musk Tweeted materially false and misleading information regarding the Going Private Transaction to exact personal revenge and ‘squeeze-out’ the short-sellers who had purportedly been badgering him for months.”

As previously reported, Tesla received a subpoena from the SEC following Musk’s tweet about taking his embattled electric vehicle company private and are examing if his declaration of securing funding at $420 per share is factual.

After news broke that Tesla was issued a subpoena, its stock price edged lower 3.3 percent to $336.40.

This week, the company’s board of directors announced it formed a special committee to study proposals about taking the company off the public market. The special committee has the full power and authority of the Board of Directors to take any and all actions on behalf of the Board of Directors as it deems necessary to evaluate and negotiate a potential Going Private Transaction and alternatives to any transaction proposed by Mr. Musk, the board of directors said in a statement.”The special committee’s grant of authority provides that no Going Private Transaction will be consummated without the approval of the special committee. The special committee expects to provide a further update concerning the process associated with Mr. Musk’s proposal as soon as practicable.”

On Monday, Musk wrote in a blog entry that his infamous “funding secured,” tweet was in reference to a meeting with investors of Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which the South Africa-native left believing would provide the funding if needed. “I left the July 31st meeting with no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving,” wrote Musk. “This is why I referred to ‘funding secured’ in the August 7th announcement.”



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