But many other moves by Musk over the years have broken actual rules, not just skirted norms, yet none of it has slowed him down or changed his behavior.
The financial penalties that regulators or business partners might put in place mean little to someone as wealthy as Musk. He’s walking, tweeting proof that normal rules don’t apply to the ultra-rich if they choose to ignore them.
An investor who buys 5% or more of a company’s stock has 10 days to disclose the purchases, so other investors can be aware of what is affecting share prices.
Had Musk made the required timely filing, it likely would have cost him a lot more to accumulate the 15 million shares he bought after the 10 day deadline had come and gone.
The delayed disclosure saved Musk $143 million by keeping the share price lower than it might have been as he continued to buy shares, estimates Daniel Taylor, a University of Pennsylvania accounting professor.
“I think it could be laziness or the belief that rules don’t apply,” Taylor said. “But if you look at when the SEC enforces late filing, it’s relatively rare. From a cost-benefit basis, it makes sense not to file. Even if the cost for reporting late is a $100,000 fine or a multi-million-dollar fine, why wouldn’t he [delay filing]?”
Musk is still seething over that settlement he signed with the SEC, claiming he only did so because banks might otherwise have cut off Tesla’s funding and forced the automaker into bankruptcy. But Taylor said the action by the SEC amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.
“They had the opportunity to send a strong signal and chose not to,” Taylor said.
Other rules Musk ignores
The regulations on disclosing ownership stakes are only the latest in a long series of rules that Musk has flouted -— with little if any consequence.
Traditional automakers issue recalls when they discover a flaw in the design or construction of a car. That’s why the National Highway Safety Administration, the federal regulator, has named the office that looks into consumer complaints and accident data the Office of Defects Investigation.
Even before the test flight took off, the FAA had denied a safety waiver that SpaceX had requested. But the company moved forward anyway.
An FAA investigation ensued, but SpaceX ultimately walked away with little more than orders for “corrective action.”
— CNN Business’ Jackie Wattles contributed to this report