Elon Musk can’t say he did anything wrong, but he can let you know how he feels about the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Less than a week after he reached a settlement with federal regulators who had sued him, claiming he misled investors, Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, called the agency the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission” in a Twitter post Thursday.
The post brought together two of Musk’s most notable foils.
He has frequently criticized short-sellers who have bet against Tesla. And the terms of the settlement with the commission prevent him from saying he did nothing wrong in his communications with investors.
Also among the settlement’s provisions: Tesla must set up a committee to review Musk’s communications directed at investors, including his posts on Twitter and other social media.
“He’s incorrigible,” said John Coffee Jr., a professor at Columbia Law School who specializes in corporate law and securities fraud. “Everyone else knows that you let sleeping dogs lie, particularly in the case of the SEC.”
The post appeared the same day that Judge Alison Nathan of U.S. District Court in Manhattan asked the SEC and lawyers for Musk and Tesla to submit in writing, by next Thursday, the reasons the settlement should be approved. Her order said this was her standard procedure for evaluating an agreement.
A Tesla spokesman said the company had no comment on the tweet. The SEC declined to comment.
Later Thursday, Musk returned to Twitter to deride short-sellers. He replied to an old tweet of his that offered a tolerant view of “shorts” and said he now had a change of heart, calling them “reasonably maligned.” In another tweet, he wrote, “What they do should be illegal.”
It was a Twitter post that began Musk’s path to a settlement with the commission. In August, he tweeted that he was considering taking Tesla private at $420 a share. “Funding secured,” he wrote.
But the SEC found that Musk had overstated the matter and sued him, accusing him of securities fraud. After initially pulling out of an agreement to resolve the claims, he reached a settlement Saturday that will require him to step down as chairman for three years and pay a $20 million fine. The settlement also requires Tesla to add two independent directors to its board.
The terms of the settlement were more strict than those of the one he walked away from two days earlier.
“Mr. Musk has excellent attorneys,” said Marc Leaf, a partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath in New York who used to work for the SEC as an adviser to a commissioner. “He should listen to them.”
Over the weekend, when Musk sent out an email to employees saying Tesla was nearing profitability, the company filed that statement with the SEC to avoid any regulatory issues.
Musk has been relatively quiet on Twitter since the settlement. On Monday, he tweeted a link to a music video by the group Naughty by Nature with a winking emoji. Just before his jab at the commission and short-sellers Thursday, he responded to a Business Insider tweet that had given Tesla’s Model 3 sedan a positive review.
“Great verdict,” he wrote.