Shares of Tesla (TSLA) - Get Report were again under pressure thanks to the social media use of CEO Elon Musk. Although shares closed only slightly lower, they were down almost 3% in early Tuesday trading. Investors are surely growing tired of this game, as the Securities & Exchange Commission is again on the executive's case.
Last week, on Feb. 19, Musk tweeted that Tesla "will make around 500k [cars] in 2019." However, a few hours later he tweeted a correction, stating that Tesla will likely produce around 400,000 cars this year, clarifying that he "meant to say annualized production rate at end of 2019 probably around 500k; i.e., 10k cars/week."
The SEC considers this material information and it's obvious as to why it does. It's clear that production is a big component to Tesla's top and bottom line, thus a big increase or decrease becomes material to the stock price.
While shares were down early, it's not as bad as the near-5% selloff the stock experienced in Tuesday's after-hours trading session when it was reported that the SEC is apparently seeking a contempt charge against Musk. It argues that Musk violated the two parties' prior settlement that he would seek company approval for tweets/posts that are material to Tesla's stock. Musk must now explain why he should avoid the charge.
This settlement stems from an August tweet -- during market hours -- where Musk announced his intentions to take Tesla private at $420 per share. The fiasco led to plenty of chaos among investors and loads of volatility in the stock price. Ultimately, Tesla and Musk were fined $20 million, while the latter had to relinquish his role as executive chairman for a minimum of three years.
While the contempt charge will likely lead to nothing of serious repercussion, one thing is clear: Bulls have to be growing tired of Musk's ways.
While some will surely argue that it's refreshing to hear from a company's founder/CEO -- and in many ways, it really is -- the lack of oversight and the frequency in which it negatively impacts the stock is surely a frustrating sticking point. Not often do we need to consider the risks of an errant CEO tweet when weighing an investment decision.
If Musk isn't willing to stop tweeting -- and it doesn't appear that he is -- investors would surely appreciate if he at least took more careful considerations before hitting send to his 24 million followers and the many more who see his tweets. But for someone who refers to the SEC as the Short-sellers Enrichment Club, it doesn't seem like a contempt charge will be enough for Musk to take the situation seriously.
At this point, it's worth mentioning the company's convertible debt. Should Tesla's stock price close below $359.88 on Feb. 28, which it almost surely will at this point, the company will owe the full sum of its $920 million of convertible debt in cash. Not that Tesla can't afford that sum, but with all of its expansion efforts and new vehicle plans, it would have been much more advantageous to pay half that sum in cash and half in stock, like the company had planned to.
Bears will be salivating to see what that does to the company's financials in its next quarterly report.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author had no positions in the stocks mentioned.