Bulletins

Elon Musk's wild Twitter weekend sent Tesla stock into a Monday tailspin

Musk asked Twitter users whether he should sell 10% of his stake in the company. They said yes. Was it all a farce? Probably.

Elon Musk

Elon Musk is the world's richest person.

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Elon Musk had a particularly capricious couple of moments over the weekend, first asking Twitter users to answer a poll on whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stake to satisfy the people who want him to pay taxes, and then poking fun at the profile picture of Sen. Ron Wyden when the politician called him out for being, well … kind of annoying. Tesla stock fell nearly 5% by the Monday close of trading.


The whole event would have been shocking had it come from anyone else, but Musk's long history of tweeting controversial takes that shape how investors see Tesla stock has gotten him in serious hot water many times in the past. SEC regulators have ordered in a 2018 settlement that Musk should have Tesla lawyers review everything that might affect the company's financial condition beforehand. He's been accused of breaking that rule multiple times since he agreed to it, and whether any lawyer took a look at this weekend's shenanigans — who's to say?

The poll, by the way, concluded that a majority of a random assortment of 3.5 million people on Twitter believe Musk should indeed sell his stake. Whether you believe that has any bearing on what the mercurial CEO will do next depends on your level of cynicism, perhaps: Some tax experts are saying that Musk has a round of stock options due up for a massive tax bill this year that would have necessitated selling stock anyway just to pay the taxes; others have theorized that Tesla is seriously overvalued and that selling stock now, with the Twitter poll blanketing the real reason, is just a beautifully clever way for Musk to cash in. Personally, my completely random theory is that someone somewhere reminded him about the tax deadline on the vested stock options and he just wanted to have a little fun messing with the universe.

Musk explained in his tweet that he doesn't pay personal taxes because he takes no salary from Tesla aside from stock. He has previously opposed a proposal to tax billionaire wealth from unrealized stock gains, which was floated and then dropped by Democratic congresspeople in late October.

Whatever the reason for the Twitter poll, what he'll do next remains a usual Muskian enigma. "I was prepared to accept either outcome," he tweeted Sunday afternoon. "I had too many bottles of Teslaquila!" he said later in the evening (if you haven't heard of Teslaquila, I've tried it and recommend against), following a "Why does ur pp look like u just came?" tweet at Wyden after the senator called for a billionaires tax in response to the Twitter poll.

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