Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) warned board members of Tesla that the recent acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk could present conflicts of interest for the electric automaker.
Musk purchased the social media company in a $44 billion deal that followed months of court battles about the number of true accounts on the platform. Among other challenges posed to the company has been leftist ire over the billionaire entrepreneur’s claims to prioritize freedom of speech and publicize the censorious actions from former management.
Warren told Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm in a letter that the board has a responsibility to ensure that Musk “fulfills his legal obligation to act in the best interests of Tesla and all of its shareholders, not just himself,” as well as guarantee that he “does not treat the company as a private plaything.” She asked about specific oversight measures board members have created to determine whether Musk is adequately leading the automaker.
“Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and his simultaneous management of both Twitter and Tesla raise significant legal questions about conflicts of interest, compliance with labor laws, and misappropriation of corporate resources,” she wrote.
The lawmaker, who has previously clashed with Musk over his supposed failure to pay a fair share of taxes, referenced his reported use of Tesla engineers to assume control of the social media company’s code immediately following the acquisition. Though Musk has said that the employees volunteered to help him take over the platform, Warren cited one anonymous report claiming that “most would also feel it was impossible to turn down a direct request from Musk without later facing poor performance reviews or other consequences.” Warren also said that using Tesla employees at Twitter could violate Musk’s legal “duty of loyalty to Tesla” and “trigger questions” about the board’s responsibility to prevent such actions.
Musk has remarked that he still oversees Tesla and SpaceX, where he says the teams “are so good that often little is needed” from him. The serial entrepreneur said in court last month that he holds no desire to be a chief executive “of any company.”
Warren also expressed concern that Twitter could artificially suppress advertising traffic for Chevrolet, Ford, Audi, and other automakers that compete with Tesla. On the other hand, she claimed that Musk could harm Tesla by promoting competitors in order to raise “badly-needed revenue” for his acquisition, which was partially financed by debt.
She cited statistics that found “hate speech” impressions have risen after the buyout while providing a larger platform for “Nazis, virulent sexism, and climate misinformation” in a way that could harm the Tesla brand image, claims which Musk has directly contested. The billionaire recently slammed activist groups for pressuring advertisers to abandon the platform over the purported rise in undesirable speech.
“Musk and Tesla are inextricably intertwined, and while this close relationship has benefited the company in the past, recent developments may have brought a series of negatives to the forefront,” Warren concluded.
Net favorability of Tesla among Democrats has indeed fallen 20.3 percentage points between October and November, the time frame of Musk’s Twitter purchase, according to a survey from Morning Consult. On the other hand, net favorability among Republicans increased by 3.9 points over the same period. SpaceX, the reusable rocket venture founded by Musk, likewise fell 4.5 percentage points in net favorability among Democrats and rose 1 point among Republicans.