Elon Musk is not a Chief Executive Officer like the others.
Tesla’s (TSLA) boss is atypical.
He refuses to obey the rules often imposed on executives of public companies.
The billionaire did not hesitate to relaunch the showdown with the U.S Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) despite a 2018 settlement with the regulator.
In September 2018, the two sides agreed to end an investigation into a tweet from Musk, posted on August 7, 2019, that caused the price of Tesla shares to fall.
“Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured,” the billionaire wrote at the time.
The tweet shook Tesla stock. The SEC filed a complaint against Musk.
A settlement was reached and announced on September 29, 2018. It required Musk to step down as Tesla’s chairman. Tesla and Musk agreed to pay $40 million in penalties. Tesla also agreed to have the company’s lawyers pre-approve tweets with material information about the company.
Last April, a New York federal judge told the billionaire in a ruling that he would not end the agreement that called for him to have his social media posts approved by a company attorney if they consisted of material information about Tesla.
Musk pushed backed and said that the previous agreement hindered his freedom of speech. He said the SEC used the agreement to “launch endless, boundless” investigations of his public statements.
“None of the arguments hold water,” Judge Lewis J. Liman of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote in a ruling.
Few CEOs would risk attacking the SEC the way Musk does. These tensions also suggest that the billionaire values his uniqueness and he has just proven it once again.
On October 2, Tesla shareholder Ross Gerber wrote to Musk on Twitter, asking how investors should view Tesla, after the company presented on September 30 the progress of Optimus, the company’s humanoid robot. Musk’s response was scathing.
“Hey @elonmusk- love to discuss the long term global economic implications of Optimus and how investors should view tesla moving forward. $tsla,” Gerber posted on Twitter.
“I don’t care about boosting the stock,” the billionaire responded. “But the economic implications are obvious.”
Very few CEOs would dare to make such a statement for fear of reprisals from their Board of Directors and a sanction from the markets. Not Musk, who sees himself as a visionary, not just an entrepreneur. He has made it his mission to transform civilization as it is today.
The tech tycoon showcased a dancing Optimus on September 30, gesturing with one of his hands and bending his knees during Tesla AI Day. He promised a mass-production of his robot as soon as possible.
Optimus will cost less than $20,000.
“Our goal is to make a useful humanoid robot as quickly as possible. We’ve also designed using the same discipline that we use in designing the car which is, to say, to design for manufacturing, such that it’s possible to make the robot at a high volume at low cost with high reliability,” the billionaire said.
Optimus will herald a “future of abundance,” Musk said. It will be “a future where there is no poverty, where people can have whatever they want, in terms of products and services. It really is a fundamental transformation of civilization as we know it.”
The robot nevertheless remains a work in progress.
Tesla will work on different use cases, including cooking and gardening. Musk wants to replace human labor with humanoid robots, made from the artificial intelligence software used by Tesla for its cars.