Elon Musk told the court on Wednesday that he did not want to be the CEO of any company. He has recently taken over and appointed himself the CEO of social media platform Twitter, along with his responsibilities as the CEO of electric vehicle maker Tesla and CEO and CTO of defence contractor SpaceX.
Musk also said that the arrangement at Twitter is temporary. “I expect to reduce my time at Twitter and find somebody else to run Twitter over time,” he said.
Musk and Tesla are in the midst of a trial over the 2018 CEO pay package that the company granted him, which is an unparalleled compensation plan that has made Musk a centi-billionaire and the richest person on the planet.
Shareholder Richard J. Tornetta had sued Musk and Tesla alleging that the CEO compensation was excessive, and that its authorization by the Tesla board amounted to a breach of its fiduciary duty.
Musk explained during the testimony that CEO is not necessarily an apt description for the work he says he does at his companies.
He said, “At SpaceX, it’s really that I’m responsible for the engineering of the rockets and Tesla for the technology in the car that makes it successful. So, the CEO is often viewed as somewhat of a business focused role but in reality, my role is much more that of an engineer developing technology and making sure that we develop breakthrough technologies and that we have a team of incredible engineers who can achieve those goals.”
He also said, “It’s my experience that great engineers will only work for a great engineer. That is my first duty, not that of CEO.”
The attorneys for Tornetta asked Musk about a CNBC report that he had authorized 50 Tesla employees, mostly Autopilot engineers to work at Twitter.
Musk said he only called on Tesla employees to assist him at Twitter on a “voluntary basis,” and to work “after-hours” at Twitter. He said that no Tesla board member had called him to say it is not a good idea to use Tesla resources for one of his other, privately-held companies.
The Tesla CEO specified that, “This was an after hours– just if you’re interested in evaluating, helping me evaluate Twitter engineering… that’d be nice. I think it lasted for a few days and it was over.”
With all of his business commitments, Musk explained during his testimony that Tesla has taken more time than anything in recent years.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs in the trial asked whether it was a good idea for Musk to have a combative attitude towards regulators, and specifically asked him about prior insults he lobbed at the Securities and Exchange Commission.
“In general, I think the mission of the SEC is good but the question is whether that mission is being executed well,” he replied.
“In some cases I think it is not. The SEC fails to investigate things that they should and places far too much attention on things that are not relevant. The recent FTX thing I think is an example of that. Why was there no attention given to FTX? Investors lost billions. Yet the SEC continues to hound me despite shareholders being greatly rewarded. This makes no sense.”
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