Commentary: Maybe Elon Musk should stop tweeting about Telsa

SINGAPORE: He is a visionary, eccentric billionaire and an avid Twitter user. 

Elon Musk is many issues to many folk. He has indubitably been regarded as a few of the successful entrepreneurs in contemporary history.

And though he already has his hands stout as the CEO of electrical vehicle firm Tesla and aerospace manufacturer SpaceX, he looks to possess time to to find one extra title – Twitter troll and violator of corporate disclosure legal guidelines.

Musk has gotten in peril with the US Securities Alternate Price (SEC) extra than one cases. In 2019, Musk agreed to a deal with regulators to a US$20 million elegant that incessantly identified as for Tesla’s attorneys to “pre-approve written communications, alongside side tweets with cloth files about the firm”.

READ: Commentary: Don’t be too mercurial to write-off Elon Musk

The settlement follows the SEC investigation of Musk tweeting about taking the firm non-public at a designate of US$420 per portion, a number the SEC acknowledged is allegedly impressed by the value of marijuana. 

Such an announcement would perhaps perchance perchance be a important corporate event for a publicly-listed firm, but it became once tweeted without pre-approval from his board of directors.

In spite of the SEC settlement, he has continued to let free a movement of tweets, which possess despatched both Tesla and cryptocurrencies on a rollercoaster scurry. He also has a properly-identified disdain of monetary regulators, and has been quoted mentioning “I are desirous to be clear, I attain no longer admire the SEC.”

Nevertheless whether Musk respects regulators is irrelevant. He need to restful be self-discipline to the identical location of monetary regulations that all individuals else is held up to. So how is it that Musk restful has free reign over his social media fable? 

What drives this boldness? Of us – his followers – give him vitality. Every retail and institutional investors appear to react to Musk’s tweets about the market, be it resulting from non secular zeal for him or a rational prognosis of future Tesla’s corporate policy.

After the announcement of Tesla’s fetch of bitcoin, its designate skyrocketed. Tesla reported its quarterly profit thru March 2021 from sales of bitcoin of over US$100 million.

Bewitch the case of Musk’s tweeting that the Tesla stock became once too excessive on 1 May perchance presumably presumably also honest 2020. The tweet triggered a US$13 billion decline within the Tesla’s market price. The very fact that the stock designate later recovered to greater heights isn’t any comfort.

READ: Commentary: Don’t belief the hype – Bitcoin can also no longer ever be a understanding funding

(cr) Elon Musk Twitter

In 2019, Musk despatched a tweet to his followers that Tesla would seemingly fabricate about half of 1,000,000 vehicles. Four hours later, he amended the tweet. (Photograph: Elon Musk via Twitter)

If one thing, it raises the request of whether Musk purposely manipulated the stock designate down in anticipation of future appropriate news, representing a shopping for opportunity for himself and these he can also want to let in on the deal.


One request that comes up is whether investors are unwitting individuals in a market manipulation blueprint? And if so, what can regulators attain about it?

The problem at hand is set fairness (the conception, no longer the monetary instrument).

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Regulation on corporate insiders is in station for a motive. As these insiders possess to find entry to to corporate files that others attain no longer possess, their words in non-legitimate channels can also result in huge outcomes on the stock designate and an unfair serve for some.

It looks that they attain no longer want unique guidelines for tweeting. They accurate possess to implement existing regulations greater.

Musk acknowledged that he started SolarCity, Tesla, and SpaceX for the betterment of humanity, but his tweets that affect the monetary properly-being of stock market individuals can infrequently be acknowledged to develop the identical honest. Billions of bucks of investments hinge on whether a tweet has a delighted emoji or sad emoji. That can also be loads of risk.

What makes Elon Musk particular as an influencer, in contrast to the likes of Justin Bieber, is that he’s an organization insider. He is aware of within files, whereas the change type of influencers most effective explain public files. Now not like the latter, the industrial consequences of trolling by corporate insiders is a lot extra severe.

If we mediate this has wide-ranging implications, then we need to possess in concepts whether to enable markets to accurate mistruths or extra aggressively implement Musk’s violations of corporate disclosure policy.


Giving to less regulator explain skill permitting arbitrary corporate disclosure whereas counting on monetary incentives of market individuals to “accurate any mistruth”.

One technique to attain that operationally is for regulators to chop again short-sale constraints (i.e. restraining the sale of stock that the seller would now not possess). At report, investors can accurate underpriced stocks by shopping for, but face restrictions when attempting to wager in opposition to stocks they mediate are overpriced.

READ: Commentary: GameStop insanity has painful lessons on short-selling and extra for retail investors

To illustrate, when Musk tweets that he is taking Tesla non-public at a excessive firm valuation and its portion designate rises, market individuals who’re suspicious of such behavior are financially incentivised to hunt down out whether that is accurate.

If they mediate the commentary is fake, they’ll short-sell the stock to wager in opposition to the event and profit from being accurate. Restricting the skill of short-sellers to wager in opposition to the stock reduces market individuals’ skill to accurate overoptimistic beliefs.

Academic overview has shown that short-sale constraints extend stock mispricing and the likelihood of a stock designate atomize, as unsustainable market expectations unravel at some point.

Nevertheless given the final public conception of short-sellers, lowering short-sale constraints doesn’t seem like a viable probability. Since the 1930s, the US SEC has taken the stance that short-sellers can also manipulate markets.

Furthermore, in cases of monetary crises and illiquidity, costs can also overreact to unsuitable news and plummet extra than their foremost price.

It doesn’t wait on that motion pictures cherish The Large Quick painting short-sellers making a wager in opposition to the US housing market as anti-heroes. In actuality, the GameStop and AMC saga originated from retailer investors’ desires to retract on short-sellers.

(If none of what took station with GameStop made sense to you, listen to monetary veterans damage down how loads of avid gamers powered the surge and which listed firm can also stare copycat attacks in CNA’s Heart of the Topic podcast.)


The opposite change is to implement existing monetary regulations extra stringently. Importantly, this resolution would now not name for added monetary regulation and need to be politically easy to attain.

Given existing guidelines on short sales, no cheap free-market recommend would acquire allowing corporate insiders to retract serve of their station to unfold misinformation or unverified numbers.

So the most purposeful technique would perhaps perchance perchance be for regulators to step in and follow the rule of regulation. The very essence of that is that all individuals need to play by the identical guidelines. Whether or no longer it’s tweets on bitcoin or Tesla, Musk need to be self-discipline to the identical location of monetary regulations that are imposed on all CEOs and company insiders.

READ: Commentary: The fratboy folly of Elon Musk, self-anointed Technoking

The SEC has admonished Musk for allegedly violating the terms of the earlier settlement settlement, but has but to file a movement to compel enforcement. It’s no longer clear why.

Given the dearth of SEC enforcement and Musk’s contemporary tweets, the decentralised hacktivist community Anonymous has regarded as taking issues of their possess vigilante hands.

In a four-minute video, the community states that Musk became once “repeatedly trolling” and that “millions of retail investors were genuinely looking out on their crypto features to reinforce their lives … Clearly, they took the risk upon themselves after they invested, and all individuals knows to be ready for volatility in crypto, but your tweets this week report a clear brush aside for the current working person.”

Whether or no longer Anonymous will make explain of additional dramatic efforts to live Elon Musk from tweeting raises any other teach: Cybersecurity breaches. Concentrating public conception, market sentiment, or files drift to a handful of sources raises the request of whether influential nodes in files or social networks would perhaps be hijacked.

Indeed, a mercurial Twitter search unearths loads of fake Elon Musk accounts touting loads of cryptocurrency scams, and the Federal Commerce Price reports that these impersonators stole bigger than US$ 2 million over the past six months alone.

The failure of the SEC to implement their possess settlement with Musk to this level raises teach that pissed off individuals and other actors can also retract it upon themselves to electrify a commerce.

Ben Charoenwong is an assistant professor of finance on the Nationwide College of Singapore Commerce College. His overview specialises in monetary regulation and monetary advice. He will seemingly be co-founder and head of overview of Chicago Global, a quantitative funding manager. No Chicago Global funds possess an funding in Tesla.

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