Does Elon Musk answer to anyone?February 10, 2021
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The price of bitcoin hit a new high Tuesday morning, rising above $47,000 for the first time in its history. That was driven by Monday’s revelation that Tesla purchased $1.5 billion of the cryptocurrency to hold on its books. As we reported yesterday, Fortune’s Shawn Tully has questions about the wisdom of that purchase. But I’m sure Musk doesn’t mind—he’s already made a half billion dollars in unrealized profit on the buy. That’s just one more demonstration of the market power that made him Fortune’s Businessperson of the Year.
It also raises the question: Does Elon Musk answer to anyone? Turns out, the answer is yes. Take a look at the language Tesla used in response to the Chinese regulators inquiring about quality issues. In a filing, the company “sincerely accepted the guidance of government departments,” and “deeply reflected on shortcomings.” That’s a far cry from Musk’s belittling the SEC as the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission,” or telling U.S. auto regulators its rules are “anachronistic,” or attacking California health care officials as “unelected and ignorant.” Pretty clear where the power lies these days.
And speaking of China, a report from the Peterson Institute of International Economics finds the trade agreement it signed a year ago with the U.S. turned out to be a flop. The “centerpiece” of the deal was an agreement by China to purchase $200 billion more in U.S. goods and services in 2020 and 2021. But trade-deal-related exports actually fell 40% short of the targeted amounts, due in part to COVID-related problems.