Why $20 Million Fine Means Nothing to Elon Musk

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In a settlement between the SEC and CEO Elon Musk and the company he runs — Tesla Inc. (NASDAQ: TSLA), Musk will lose his job as chairman. He will also have to pay a fine of $20 million, which means almost nothing to him. Depending on which estimate is used, his net worth is somewhere between $17 billion and $24 billion.

The reason for the settlements, according to Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division:

The total package of remedies and relief announced today are specifically designed to address the misconduct at issue by strengthening Tesla’s corporate governance and oversight in order to protect investors.

Part of the misconduct was Musk’s claim he might take Tesla private and had the capital committed to do so


For Musk, the founder of Tesla, the lose of the chairman’s job has to sting. Worse still, Tesla has to hire an independent chairman who could have a role in throttling Musk’s tweeting and his comments about Tesla’s future. And, two new board members, also mandated by the SEC, could participate in doing the same

Forbes puts Musk’s net worth is put at $19.7 billion. The figure is mostly based on his ownership of space rocket and exploration firm SpaceX, and Tesla. By some estimates, recent fallout from negative reactions to his comments about taking Tesla private has dropped his net worth by $1 billion. SpaceX is private, so the value of his ownership is open to speculation.

Musk’s net worth may surge. He has a controversial Tesla pay package which could bring him $50 billion in the next decade. However, the goals he has to reach to get the money are lofty.

The SEC may have needed the $20 million fine to make it appear that it had nicked Musk in his wallet. Almost everyone knows otherwise.