Elon Musk has the reputation of being a very smart guy. But everyone has their weaknesses -- their vices. Musk's involve getting on Twitter and insulting people. He did it yet again on Thursday night. Only, this time instead of calling one of the Thai cave rescue divers a pedophile or claiming he had the financing to take Tesla public, he decided to thumb his nose at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

That, by the way, is the regulator that just let Musk and his company off relatively easy. Fines of $20 million each. Musk steps down as chairman for at least three years -- though gets to stay as CEO. But the SEC could have forced Musk out.

And the settlement? A judge, presumably well acquainted with securities, law, still has to sign off on it. But doesn't have to if it seems ill advised. Maybe the judge doesn't pay attention to the news.

If the point of the SEC's action was for Musk to recognize that publicly-held companies other people's money and that the shareholders need to be treated with some fact-based consideration, maybe the settlement isn't such a good idea.

The government has the time and resources necessary to pursue a case in court. Tesla probably has nothing better to do with its money than pay lawyers. And all those debts that far exceed its cash position.

So what if the stock fell yet again on Thursday, closing another 4 percent or so. And then another 2.3 percent in after-hours training yesterday evening. Hardly worth counting.

If you run a company, you have much bigger responsibilities than those to your own vision and your ego. There are employees. Customers. Business partners. You need a more expansive view of business and the world than the one in this tweet:

Great products? Terrific. How about cash flow? Financial backing? The patience of customers who are waiting as long as a few years for a damned car to show up at their doorstep?

There are people who have been vocal about loving Tesla cars. Wonderful. Seriously, it's great when people are enthusiastic about what you make.

But if you can't get your operations to an efficient level, can't stop antagonizing regulators who have the power to pull you out of office, and can't even control your tongue, it doesn't matter. You can still run your company right into the ground. Especially when the operations are leveraged and you have to keep landing new investments to stay working.

Or maybe Musk is tired of the problems that seem insurmountable and of the 120-hour work weeks he complained about in an interview. It might be that this is a call for help with the hope that someone might make the decision for him.

If so, just keep up the online whining.

Published on: Oct 4, 2018
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