CBS correspondent Lesley Stahl during a 60 Minutes segment with Elon Musk at Tesla’s Fremont factory.(CBS)
Elon Musk stuck a finger in the SEC’s eye Sunday night on “60 Minutes.”
“I want to be clear: I do not respect the SEC. I do not respect them,” the Tesla chief executive told Lesley Stahl on the nationally broadcast CBS news program.
Discussing a stock fraud settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in October that stripped him of his chairman’s title, Musk told Stahl that bringing in a new chairman as a baby-sitter is “not realistic” because “I’m the largest shareholder in the company and I could call for a shareholder vote and get anything done that I want.”
Telecommunications executive Robyn Denholm was named Tesla chairwoman Nov. 8.
Musk also said no one is reviewing his tweets, as called for in the settlement. “The only tweets that would have to be, say, reviewed would be if a tweet had a probability of causing a movement in the stock,” Musk said. “Otherwise, it’s hello 1st Amendment. Freedom of speech is fundamental.”
But, Stahl asked, how will anyone know a tweet could move the market if no one’s reading them first?
“I guess we might make some mistakes, who knows,” said Musk, with a facial expression and laugh that should be watched to be fully appreciated.
He explained that “I use my tweets to express myself. Some people use their hair. I use Twitter.”
“You’re abiding by the settlement, aren’t you?” Stahl asked.
“Because I respect the justice system,” Musk replied.
After the interview was aired, Tesla said in a statement that the company is complying with the SEC settlement. The part that requires pre-approval of communications that could affect the stock price technically must be in place by Dec. 28, the company said.
The 15-minute interview covered a lot of ground, though without much detail — Musk’s “violent” and “terrible” childhood with an emotionally abusive father; a “life or death” summer at Tesla when “we were losing $100 million a week”; heroic efforts as Musk, by his reckoning, spent 120 hours a week at the Tesla plant supervising the rescue of a botched attempt at automation.
He said the long-promised $35,000 Model 3 (the car now costs at least $46,000) “probably” will be available in five or six months: “That’s my guess.”
Stahl told him that critics are calling him erratic, unstable, reckless and operatic. “Operatic,” he said. “That’s not bad, actually, I kind of like that one.” He disputed the “erratic” label: “The system would have failed had I been truly erratic.”
Musk’s importance to Tesla elicited a highly confident response. “There are people who say that the company cannot survive without you,” Stahl said, to which Musk replied, “I think that’s true, yeah.”
When she added, “And there are people who say the company cannot survive with you,” Musk told her, “Ha, ha, that’s hilarious.”
Associated Press contributed to this report.