SEC Charges Elon Musk With Fraud Over 'Funding Secured' Tweets

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Moving with unusual speed in an investigation, the SEC accused Musk of falsely asserting that he had lined up funding to take Tesla private. It unquestionably reads: "Am considering taking Tesla private at $420".

The SEC is asking a federal court in NY to bar Musk from serving as an officer or director of any public company.

CNBC reported that Musk had turned down an SEC deal to give up his role as chairman, while Fox Business Network reported that Musk had been offered a temporary ban as CEO.

At issue is whether Musk had a reasonable basis for saying he had "funding secured" for a deal to take Tesla private at $420 per share, as he said in an August 7 tweet.

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"Musk made his false and misleading public statements about taking Tesla private using his mobile phone in the middle of the active trading day", the SEC complaint states.

The fraud case comes amid a squall of disquieting tweets and other troubling disclosures that have raised questions about whether Musk should remain at the helm of Tesla, a company valued at $46 billion. Cowen analyst Jeffrey Osborne wrote on Friday that he thinks Tesla will need to raise $2 billion in the fourth quarter.

However, Musk's lawyer reportedly called the SEC and told them that his client was no longer interested in settling. "As citizens of planet earth, we must show our support for innovation, for attempting to create a positive future, and for our fearless change agent of the world, Elon Musk", the shop description says.

It's an interesting time for Tesla, to say the least.

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Barclays has warned that if Musk is forced to leave, it will send Tesla shares down another $130 - or 48 per cent from their current level. If you recall, early Model 3 production fell far short of Tesla's projections as the company struggled to work around any number of manufacturing bottlenecks.

Tesla's lofty market valuation - $52 billion at the close Thursday - hinges on the expectation that Musk will deliver on those goals, said Maryann Keller, an independent auto industry consultant who used to be on the former Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group board. That's putting intense pressure on Musk and the board to stop the bleeding.

"Without Elon, Tesla would be a debt-laden automaker that's burning a ton of cash", said David Whiston, an analyst with Morningstar in Chicago.

On Friday, Citigroup downgraded Tesla's stock to a sell rating from neutral , citing the SEC's suit. "Personally, I think it would be very risky to do so". Why the rogue CEO wouldn't want to settle this whole and put his company's interests first aren't clear, especially when one considers the punishment the SEC was seeking was relatively light.

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