ART BY ESTELLE ZHOU
By MELANIE WU
Let me paint a picture of a sad reality: a highly respected individual consuming a mind-altering substance on a live broadcast, posting false statements on social media, and aimlessly accusing foreigners of pedophillia.
Elon Musk, the CEO and chairman of Tesla, a multi million dollar company, probably didn’t cross your mind. And yet, he has committed all of these unforgivable actions.
The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sued Musk for a securities fraud after he posted on Twitter about his plans to take his publicly traded electric car company private. Musk tweeted, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420 per share. Funding secured.”
Musk intended to set the stocks at this price based on a 20% premium over that day’s closing share price. According to the SEC, however, Musk had not even discussed key deal terms with any potential funding source.
Soon, Tesla admitted to lacking the funding for that deal, and Musk retracted his decision to make Tesla a private company. The SEC and Tesla compromised, requiring Tesla to pay a $20 million fine and demanding Musk to leave his position as chairman of the board without seeking re-election for three more years.
This new scandal in a string of controversies that Tesla has involved itself in under Musk further proves that his behavior is not up to par with the eloquence and professionalism that his position as the head of a thriving, modern technological innovation calls for. Regardless of status or wealth, whether it be a pop culture celebrity or a powerful CEO, individuals in power must be mindful of the scope of power influence on the public and act accordingly.
Additionally, Musk’s proposition to take his company private without proper means for funding calls for another look at his arrogant belief that he can overlook federal laws simply because of his position of power.
As such an impactful influencer both in and out of the public eye, Musk needs to understand that all actions, big or small, will undoubtedly have consequences. As with several previous actions with which Musk is notoriously associated, the baseless tweet that misled investors was a completely unwarranted move, justifying the SEC’s suspicions and lawsuit against the Tesla CEO.
In fact, statistics show that Musk had even more deceiving ulterior motives: a greedy hope for stock prices to rise. Shortly after posting the tweet, stock prices soared 11%, which meant a huge success for the company, all because of Musk’s scam to the public. However, this plan backfired because after stockholders realized that Musk actually lacked secure funding for his proposal, stock prices plunged again.
As if this scandal alone is not already problematic enough for the company and its stockholders, Musk’s earlier inappropriate appearances in public fueled a downward spiral for Tesla’s acclaim.
Just last month, the Tesla chairman appeared on the podcast, “The Joe Rogan Experience” and appeared to be smoking marijuana. This, in and of itself, was out of place, but when the regulations of Tesla are taken into account, Musk’s smoking comes off as even more ironic. Tesla drug tests its employees, especially those who work in the production factories, on a regular basis. So if the employees are drug tested so strictly, it would only make sense that the CEO of the $57 billion company holds himself accountable to those same drug-free standards.
Only, he failed to do so, not just among his faithful employees, but also in the face of the public.
To further tarnish his company’s name, Musk came under fire for accusing a rescue diver of being a pedophile without sufficient logical evidence in a tweet on July 15. This unsubstantiated claim surfaced when British diver, Vernon Unsworth rescued twelve boys and their soccer coach from a flooded cave in Thailand. The boys and their coach were trapped with few resources in the cave for over two weeks. With their lives at such high stakes, the group’s survival after Unsworth rescued them was undoubtedly a rewarding experience, one for which they were probably indefinitely grateful.
Despite this obvious act of pure kindness that Unsworth displayed, Musk refused to see the good in this compassionate human being.
Rather, he turned to the only thing he has truly mastered: a heart of steel and a dark outlook on every action that others make, no matter how blatantly beneficial and kind-hearted it was.
And maybe, for some, the obviously insensitive nature with which Musk handles such situations seem perfectly acceptable. Yet, as a society, we must come to realize that under no circumstance should it ever be okay to wrongfully accuse others or to so openly smoke marijuana while in the public eye.
Even if Musk was an average citizen with no established status, this horrible behavior toward complete strangers is worse than unacceptable. Simply accusing people who are clearly innocent would deem him an unfit member of society, much less as the CEO of an economically thriving and influential company.
As our world molds and conforms to an ever-changing, technologically driven society, electric car companies like Tesla will no doubt continue to gain respect and financial stability. With that said, however, it also becomes a greater responsibility for the leaders of such innovative companies to live up to a certain standard in order to act as an example for the numerous, similar companies to come.
Without the foundation of an integrous group of leaders, the future of the electric car company, as well as other evolving companies, is at an incredibly high stake.
As a company leader and as a human being, Tesla CEO Elon Musk must step up his morals and ethic code before further damaging his company’s reputation. Setting an example for one’s followers is always an imperative motto, but with Musk’s position and influence, this is not just a motto; it’s a lifestyle.
And to recourse the company on the right path to success, Musk needs to reform his ideals quickly and effectively and be mindful of the repercussions from his behavior.