Just like Donald Trump, Elon Musk is famous — or infamous — for his provocative tweets. When the members of a boys' soccer team in Thailand were trapped in a cave in July 2018, Musk had his engineers work on transforming a liquid transfer tube from a SpaceX rocket into a type of child-sized submarine that could travel through the water in the cave. The Thai government found the vessel impractical, and a British cave diver heavily involved in the rescue effort called Musk's submarine a "PR stunt." Musk responded by tweeting that the diver was "a pedo guy" — in other words, a pedophile. After an uproar, Musk apologized [source: Chu]. Still, the cave diver is suing him for libel [source: BBC].
Then there were the tweets about Tesla's stock. In August 2018, Musk tweeted that he was considering taking the company private at $420 a share and he had the funding secured. Right after that tweet, the Tesla stock price went up 11 percent and then fell 7 percent. Two shareholders filed class action lawsuits in August 2018, saying Musk's tweet was just a ploy to get the stock price to rise and mess with all the short sellers — people who bet the stock price would fall and make money from buying at a lower price. [source: Wattles].
For these reasons, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) also filed suit for securities fraud, alleging that "in truth, Musk knew that the potential transaction was uncertain and subject to numerous contingencies." Musk, Tesla and the SEC came to a settlement without the company admitting or denying wrongdoing. He had to pay a $20 million fine, and Tesla had to pay an additional $20 million fine for not having "disclosure controls and procedures relating to Musk's tweets." This money would be distributed to "harmed investors." Musk also had to step down as chairman for Tesla, though he remains CEO [source: Ohnsman]. The company remains public.
Other targets of Musk's ire have included unions, the press and certain scientists [source: Biba]. When asked about his Twitter attacks, Musk responded to a Bloomberg Businessweek journalist by saying, "If you're on Twitter, you're in the arena. And so essentially if you attack me, it is therefore OK for me to attack back." However, he conceded, "If somebody attacks you on Twitter, should you say nothing? Probably the answer in some cases is yes, I should say nothing. In fact, most of the time I do say nothing. I should probably say nothing more often."
More Great Links
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- Carr, Austin. "The Real Story Behind Elon Musk's $2.6 Billion Acquisition of SolarCity and What it Means For Tesla's Future–Not to Mention the Planet's." Fast Company. June 7, 2017. (June 20, 2018) https://www.fastcompany.com/40422076/the-real-story-behind-elon-musks-2-6-billion-acquisition-of-solarcity-and-what-it-means-for-teslas-future-not-to-mention-the-planets
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- Mejia, Zameena. "Billionaire Elon Musk Says he was 'Raised by Books' and Credits His Success to These 8." CNBC. Nov. 16, 2017. (June 20, 2018) http://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/16/tesla-ceo-elon-musk-says-he-was-raised-by-books.html
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- White, Jeremy B. "Elon Musk Anti-Union Tweet Spurs Labour Law Violation Charge." The Independent. May 24, 2018. (June 20, 2018) http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/elon-musk-tesla-twitter-union-uaw-organizing-labor-nlrb-fremont-plant-a8368111.html
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