Streetwise Professor

August 10, 2018

Tesla: A Securities Lawsuit, But Not THE Securities Lawsuit

Filed under: Economics,Regulation — cpirrong @ 9:37 pm

Two class action lawsuits have been filed against Tesla and Elon Musk, claiming that he artificially inflated the price of Tesla stock through his going private tweets, thereby unleashing a “nuclear attack” that “completely decimated short sellers.”*

It is a plausible claim.  However, the damages here are likely to be minimal.  Tesla’s stock fell below the pre-tweet price within a day, as reality set in.  Therefore, only those who bought during that brief window of tweet-induced euphoria (and inflation)  would have a claim (and this would include shorts who covered).  Not likely a huge class here.

No, the mother of Tesla class actions awaits a big stock price drop, which would likely follow either a disclosure of past mis-statements and fraud, or an SEC announcement of litigation against the firm.  (Hey, has the statute of limitations run out on the 2013 squeezes?)  I think it’s a matter of time, but who knows?

The whole going private thing looks more bizarre by the day, especially given Elon’s odd ideas about what going private means:

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk and advisers are seeking a wide pool of investors to back a potential take-private of the automaker to avoid concentrating ownership among a few new large holders, according to people familiar with the matter.

Tesla is holding early discussions with banks about the feasibility and structure of a possible deal, the people said, asking not to be identified as the details aren’t public. They are canvassing investors including large asset managers, the people said.

Billionaire founder Musk would prefer to amass a group of investors who could each contribute part of the funds because he wants to avoid having one or two large new stakeholders in the company, the people said. Deliberations are at an early stage and the company hasn’t yet formally hired a bank to work on the process or made a final decision on how to proceed, they said.

In other words, Elon wants his cake and to eat it too.  He wants diffuse ownership and total control, and to deny the diffuse owners the investor protections that a public listing brings with it.

Come to think of it, Elon wants to bring the Russian model to the US–think of Rosneft, Gazprom.

The Tesla board of sheep–I mean, directors–is apparently scrambling furiously to try to recover from Elon’s blunder by “investigating” a going private transaction.  A little late!

I really want to know who Tesla’s O&D insurer is, so I can short it.

*Pedantic pet peeve.  You can’t “completely decimate” anything–that’s an oxymoron. Decimate means execute one out of ten.  It was a punishment exacted against mutinous Roman legions.  I think the word the lawyers are looking for is “annihilate.”

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