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Elon Musk: Running Out of Time

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Little about Elon Musk’s many ambitious activities have changed since he tweeted a threat to take his electric car company private. The only thing the big-name CEO of SpaceX and Tesla fame really seems good at producing is hot air.


He’s always been long on promises, it seems, and short on delivery. The pattern of lies and deception he appears to have created to cover his troubled, government-backed businesses has become, like Pinocchio’s nose, longer and longer.

Friday the Wall Street Journal reported the FBI had opened a criminal probe into Tesla’s Model 3 production number reports to assess whether they were forged to inflate stock prices and paint a rosier picture of the company’s stability.

Desperate to meet a production deadline after an impressive string of misses, Tesla’s already admitted to skipping what some would call critical safety tests to get cars built faster and in greater number. Given this extreme production pressure, coupled with Musk's propensity to shade the truth, it would probably surprise few people if we all eventually learn the FBI has found the CEO did something even more extreme to cover himself.

After all, Friday’s news of a new FBI examination came just weeks after the Department of Justice opened a fraud investigation of its own into the aforementioned Musk’s tweets that the Securities & Exchange Commission has already found to be “false and misleading.” If he’s willing to bend the truth about having the funding secured to take his company private – the subject-matter of the tweets in question – why not fudge production numbers too?


It's a fair question, one serious enough to lead the government to pull the plug on just about any other CEO. But wait, as the late-night TV pitchmen from whom Musk is in a manner descended might say, there’s more! These examples don’t even close the book on Musk's October.

Earlier this month Tesla returned $13 million to the state of Oregon after an investigation concluded Musk’s company overstated the cost of solar projects by 100 percent to qualify for higher tax credits. Although the company denied any wrongdoing, its plea of innocence is hard to believe when just last September, it paid nearly $30 million to settle claims that it overbilled the federal government for solar system rebates.

If it’s not yet clear that Musk doesn’t have the leadership or mindset to be a major government contractor, look no further than his appearance on the Joe Rogan Show in September. The SpaceX CEO purportedly smoked marijuana during the taping. Not to make a value judgment but, as matter of law, the Federal Acquisition Regulations System bars the Air Force from awarding contracts to people unless they agree “not to engage in the unlawful manufacture, distribution, dispensing, possession, or use of a controlled substance while performing the contract.”


When analyzing behavior like this, it almost appears as if Musk, who taunts government agencies online and even had an employee busted by the FBI for running a Silk Road drug market, is begging for members of official Washington to cut him off from the taxpayer dole.

What’s taking them so long? Musk has no track record, no integrity, and no respect for the law. It’s high time for lawmakers and regulators to forget he’s some kind of visionary genius and hold him to the same standards as everyone else.

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