Personal Finance

The Biggest Threat to Tesla May Be Elon Musk’s Phone

In this segment from the Motley Fool Money podcast, host Chris Hill and Fool senior analysts Aaron Bush, Ron Gross, and Matt Argersinger try to get inside the head of Elon Musk, and it's not easy. Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) shares rose last week after Musk finally agreed to a settlement with the SEC over his previous "funding secured" tweet.

But they fell after he went back to Twitter to mock the regulator that he had just come to a deal with. Did he just risk the agreement? Can anyone get control of Musk? What's next? The Fools speculate.

A full transcript follows the video.

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This video was recorded on Oct. 5, 2018.

Chris Hill: Another rollercoaster week for Tesla shareholders. Shares of Tesla were up big on Monday after Elon Musk agreed to a settlement with the SEC. The deal included tens of millions of dollars in fines for both Musk and Tesla, a requirement that Tesla add two new independent directors, and a three-year ban on Musk serving as chairman of the board. But the stock fell later in the week, when Musk took to Twitter once again to mock the SEC, calling it the Short Seller Enrichment Commission. Matty, someone has got to take this guy's phone away.

Matt Argersinger: Take it away! Take the Twitter account away! I don't get it. I really thought... I need to stop believing that this is going to work out logically. I mean, I just feel like after the settlement, this is a great time for Musk to just step back, accept it, he's going to pay this fine. In my mind, he got off. The SEC's original lawsuit was for him to be banned from serving as an executive on a publicly traded company! And by the way, I don't know if Elon knows this -- I'm sure his lawyers do -- a federal judge still has to accept the settlement! So, in fact, he could have put that in jeopardy. If a federal judge decides that, first of all, there were questions about settlement anyway. But now, you have Elon Musk essentially ridiculing the SEC, and possibly the settlement. If this doesn't go through, I think it's very possible that Elon Musk could eventually not be serving as a CEO of Tesla.

Ron Gross: Yeah, the exact thing that Tesla needs, besides a better balance sheet, is a strong Chairman or a strong No. 2, à la Sandberg at Facebook . Whether he can relinquish control and not install a puppet chairman remains to be seen. I think we're setting ourselves up for a big fight sometime within the next three years between Musk and whoever that new chairman is, with the end result possibly being Musk leaving.

Aaron Bush: Honestly, I'm just tired of the shenanigans, period. A lot of it is Musk's fault. A lot of it isn't, too. But there are interesting developments going on behind the scenes. For example, last month the Model 3 was the highest-grossing car in the U.S. We don't see those headlines because all we see is Musk and the SEC headlines. But there are interesting things going on here. It's really important for Tesla to contain the narrative so that they can improve their balance sheet and do things like that. It's just crazy how hard it is to just keep his mouth shut.

Hill: That's the thing. He's a smart guy, and you would think, Matty, that the best way to shut up the short sellers is to put up more numbers to celebrate those types of actual business wins.

Argersinger: That's exactly right. I guess I just don't know when Musk woke up one day, and decided, this is a day, from now on, I'm going to go to war with my critics. Anyone who criticizes me or my company. He just doesn't have to do it. I know a lot of the media has been a little bit unfair against Musk. But, again, he's creating his own problems.

Aaron Bush owns shares of Facebook, Tesla, and Twitter. Chris Hill has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Matthew Argersinger owns shares of Tesla and Twitter and has the following options: long January 2019 $15 calls on Twitter. Ron Gross owns shares of Facebook. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Facebook, Tesla, and Twitter. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy .

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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