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整改期限已到,马斯克和特斯拉从这一日起将大不同

彭博社 2019年01月07日

2018年9月,马斯克的一条要将公司私有化的推文让特斯拉惹上了官司。根据和解协议,马斯克在社交平台上的发言尤其要受到严格审查。

图片来源:VCG/VCG via Getty Images

2018年12月28日,特斯拉公司的董事会和埃隆·马斯克的推特账号迎来了一个新时代。

这一天是美国证券交易委员会给特斯拉下达的整改期限的最后一天。根据证交会要求,特斯拉要在整改期限内增加两名独立董事,同时要采取一系列措施,更好地监管马斯克在社交媒体上的发言——比如成立一个董事会专业委员会,以及聘请一名证券律师,对公司高管在推特和其他社交媒体平台上的重要发言进行监督等。

2018年9月,马克斯的一条要将公司私有化的推文让特斯拉惹上了官司。根据和解协议,马斯克在社交平台上的发言尤其要受到严格审查。按照证交会的要求,特斯拉已于2018年11月任命公司董事罗宾·丹霍尔姆接任董事长。

特斯拉和马斯克为何会招来证交会的重拳打击?这还要从马斯克的一条推文说起。马斯克曾经在推特上公开宣称,自己已经获得了在420美元的股价上将公司私有化的“资金保障”。美国证交会认为,马斯克在2018年8月7日发表的一系列相关推文属于虚假宣传,具有误导性,并影响了特斯拉的股价,其行为已经涉嫌欺诈。马斯克发声当日,特斯拉的股价上涨到了379.57美元,接近历史最高纪录。

在随后的日子里,特斯拉的股票遭到抛售,截至2018年9月28日,也就是证交会起诉马斯克的次日,特斯拉股价已经暴跌至264.77美元。同时,人们也愈加担心马斯克还能否继续担任CEO。不过第二天,马斯克和特斯拉就选择了与证交会和解。

马斯克之怒

证交会给了特斯拉90天的整改期,对马斯克的社交平台发言实施管控。在整改期内,马斯克曾经公开批评证交会。关于他会改变推特发言习惯,以及关于他会受到董事会约束的说法,马斯克也进行了驳斥。

在2018年12月接受《60分钟》采访时,马斯克表示,他并不尊重证交会,他在推特上发贴时,也没有人来进行审核。当记者斯利·斯塔尔问道,如果这些贴子没有事先被审核,特斯拉何以知道它们是否会对股市产生影响时,马斯克答道:“我想我们可能会犯些错,谁知道呢?”后来他又补充道:“没有人是完美的。”

马斯克还表示,有人认为丹霍尔姆会“监视”他,这种说法是“不现实”的,因为自己才是特斯拉最大的股东。他表示:“我可以召集一次股东投票,然后做任何我想做的事。”(不过后来他报怨道,这部分采访内容被有选择性地编辑了。)

惹祸的推文

2018年10月,马斯克在推特上写道,那几条推文虽然让他向证交会交了2000万美元罚款,但那是“值得的”。他还发了几条关于删去他在特斯拉的有关头衔的推文,并且拐弯抹角地讽刺了证交会。

在与证交会达成和解五天后,马斯克称证交会应该改名叫“卖空者致富委员会”,并嘲讽地写道,证交会在这上面“做了不可思议的工作”。

特斯拉的新独董将加入一个长期以来被批评管理不善的董事会。

2018年11月,一个与工会有关联的投资团体与代表了四个州主要养老基金的官员致信特斯拉董事会成员,称在董事会的八名非常务董事中,有五人与马斯克有职业上或私人的关系。这些投资者要求,在证交会的和解条款之外,董事会还应该采取其他措施限制马斯克的权力,包括限期让部分董事离职等。

法务地震

自从马斯克招惹了证交会,几个月间,特斯拉的法务部门也经历了几次地震。

2018年12月初,曾经代表马斯克与证交会打官司的华盛顿律师戴恩·布茨温卡斯被任命为特斯拉的法务总顾问。此前担任这一职务的托德·马龙在特斯拉效力五年后,于2018年1月离职。托德·马龙在加盟特斯拉前,曾经代理过两场马斯克的离婚官司。

2018年11月,特斯拉法务部副总裁菲尔·罗森伯格离职,去了一家名叫Sonder的酒店业初创公司担任法务顾问。罗森伯格在加盟特斯拉前曾经在证交会工作过。

诽谤官司

2018年7月,马斯克因在推特上称英国的一位洞穴探险者是“恋童癖”,而被对方以诽谤为名告上了法庭。马斯克的一名代理律师试图如此轻描淡写地淡化他的推文的杀伤力。

2018年12月20日,为说服法院撤案,马斯克的这名律师称,马斯克的侮辱性言论并非是陈述一个事实,而是属于“在社交媒体上上演了一出小学生似的嘴仗”。没有人会合理地相信,马斯克会私下知道这位英国探险家弗农·昂斯沃思喜欢小孩子,或者喜欢与小孩子发生性行为。

马斯克的这位名叫约翰·韦斯顿的律师表示,推特是一个“以谩骂和夸张著称的社交平台”,并称它“充斥着幼稚的言论”。(财富中文网)

译者:朴成奎

It begins a new age for Tesla Inc.’s board and Elon Musk’s Twitter feed on December 28, 2018.

It’s the deadline the Securities and Exchange Commission set for the electric-car maker to add two new independent directors, plus take a series of steps to better check its volatile chief executive officer’s presence on social media. Those measures include setting up a board committee and employing a securities lawyer to oversee governing senior executives’ tweets and posts on other platforms that are material to the company.

Musk’s communications, in particular, are required to be more closely scrutinized under the agreement Tesla reached in September 2018 to settle a lawsuit over the CEO’s tweets about taking the company private. The carmaker already complied with the SEC’s order to name a new chairman by tapping existing director Robyn Denholm to take over from Musk in November 2018.

The SEC moved to punish Tesla and Musk because it alleged he committed fraud by tweeting that he had the “funding secured” to take the company private at $420 a share. The agency said this and other claims the CEO made on Aug. 7, 2018 were false and misleading and impacted Tesla’s stock, which closed that day at $379.57, just short of a record.

The shares sold off within days and plunged to $264.77 by Sept. 28, 2018, the day after the SEC sued Musk and raised the prospect of banning him from being CEO. He and Tesla settled the following day.

Musk’s Bristling

During the 90 days that the SEC gave Tesla to implement procedures and controls to oversee Musk’s communications, the CEO has publicly lambasted the agency and bristled at the notion that he’ll change his Twitter habits or be reined in by the board.

In an interview with “60 Minutes” aired December 2018, Musk said he didn’t respect the agency and that no one was reviewing his posts before he sent them. When asked by correspondent Lesley Stahl how Tesla would know if his tweets would move the market if they weren’t being read beforehand, Musk replied: “Well, I guess we might make some mistakes. Who knows?” He added: “Nobody’s perfect.”

Musk also said it was “unrealistic” to think that Denholm would watch over him, noting that he’s Tesla’s largest shareholder. “I can just call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want,” he said. (He complained later that this portion of the interview was selectively edited.)

Troublesome Tweets

In October 2018, Musk wrote that the tweets that cost him a $20 million penalty paid to the SEC were “worth it.” He also sent cryptic posts about deleting his titles at Tesla and obliquely needled the agency in the process.

Five days after reaching the settlement, Musk referred to the SEC as the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” and mockingly wrote that it was “doing incredible work.”

Tesla’s new independent directors will join a board that’s been long criticized for poor governance.

November 2018, a union-affiliated investor group and officials representing major pension funds in four states sent a letter to board members noting that five of the eight non-executive directors on the board had professional or personal ties to Musk. The investors pushed for Tesla’s board to go beyond the terms of the SEC’s settlement by setting timelines for some directors to leave, among other measures.

Legal Shakeup

Tesla’s legal department has been going through shakeups in the months since Musk’s run-in with the SEC.

The company tapped Dane Butswinkas, the Washington trial lawyer who represented the CEO in his legal battle with the agency, earlier December 2018 to become general counsel. He’ll replace Todd Maron, who’s leaving Tesla in January 2018 after five years. Before he joined the company, he represented Musk through two divorces.

And in November 2018, Phil Rothenberg, a vice president on Tesla’s legal staff, left to became general counsel at Sonder, a hospitality startup. Rothenberg previously worked at the SEC.

Defamation Defense

For all the hubbub over Musk’s tweeting, a lawyer representing Musk in a defamation lawsuit brought by a cave explorer he called a pedophile in July 2018 is downplaying how seriously the public takes some of his client’s posts.

In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed on December 20, 2018, Musk’s lawyer said his client’s insults weren’t intended to be statements of fact but were made in the middle of a “schoolyard spat on social media.” No one would reasonably believe he had private knowledge that the British cave explorer, Vernon Unsworth, was attracted to children or engaged in sexual activity with them, his lawyer wrote.

Musk’s lawyer, John Hueston, referred to Twitter as “a social networking website infamous for invective and hyperbole” and said that it is “rife with sophomoric commentary.”

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