Tesla CEO Elon Musk detailed the “precarious” situation the electric automaker was in as he contemplated the Securities and Exchange Committee’s consent decree from 2018. Musk said that not agreeing to the SEC’s terms would have ended Tesla’s ability to obtain working capital from financial institutions, killing the company. “It’s like having a gun to your child’s head,” Musk said.
Musk appeared at a 2022 TED Live event, where TED Head Chris Anderson interviewed the Tesla CEO for about 45 minutes, covering a wide array of topics. While most of the attention initially was placed on Musk’s proposal to buy social media platform Twitter, a submission made this morning, questions eventually shifted toward other topics.
One of the subjects Anderson and Musk eventually stumbled upon was the CEO’s extensive rivalry with the SEC. Anderson, who compared Musk’s over $40 billion offer to Twitter as the second edition of “funding secured,” listened intently as the Tesla CEO told his side of things, once again.
“Funding was indeed secured,” Musk said, appearing focused as he went over the saga. “I should say, ‘Why do I not have respect for the SEC’ in that situation. I don’t mean to blame everyone at the SEC, but certainly the San Francisco office. The SEC knew that funding was secured,” Musk added. “They pursued an active public investigation, nonetheless.”
Musk continued during the TED talk that the SEC had gone after Tesla at a horrible time, when the company was in a “precarious financial situation.” “I was told by the banks that if I chose not to settle with the SEC, the banks would cease providing working capital, and Tesla would go bankrupt immediately. That’s like having a gun to your child’s head,” Musk argued. The CEO argued he was unlawfully required to agree to the SEC’s terms. “Those bastards,” Musk said.
Recent developments in the case between the SEC and Musk have resulted in the Tesla head requesting a 2018 decree be thrown out. “I entered into the consent decree for the immediate survival of Tesla. I never lied to shareholders. I would never lie to shareholders,” Additionally, judges and lawyers on both sides have argued whether funding was indeed secured, a point Musk has confirmed on numerous occasions.
“It seems to me it’s not factually very complicated,” U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said in early March. Chen argued that “funding had not been secured.” However, Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro said, “I do worry about dissecting it too much.”
“None of Mr. Musk’s deals have ever had a funding issue.” Spiro added that investors may have interpreted the Tweet to mean “Elon might be making a bid to take it private.”
Musk concluded during the TED talk that he only agreed to the SEC terms as declining to do so would have meant the end for Tesla.
“It makes it look like I lied, when I did not, in fact, lie. I was forced to admit I lied to save Tesla’s life.”
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