I watched Elon Musk on 60 Minutes last night, so you didn’t have to. Key takeaways below.
First, though, let me say to Elon’s fanboys, who don’t take well to critics, that I, too, am a fan at heart. I find him the most interesting and ambitious business leader in the world today, taking on super-sized problems like climate change, interplanetary travel, urban gridlock, etc. But that doesn’t give him a pass to behave in ways no other CEO would dream of – trash talking regulators, harassing analysts, misleading the public about production progress, and telling shareholders he has “funding secured” for a buy-out when he doesn’t. Musk needs supervision, and it’s good that Robyn Denholm, whom I got to know and admire during her time as CFO of Juniper Networks, is at least attempting to provide it.
Excerpts from last night:
“I don’t really want to try to adhere to some CEO template.”
“I do not smoke pot. As anyone who watched that podcast (where he smoked pot) knows, I don’t know how to smoke pot.”
“I’m certainly under insane stress and crazy hours…but the system would have failed if I was truly erratic.”
As to whether Denholm will supervise him, Musk said: “That’s not realistic. I am the largest shareholder in the company.”
On missed production schedules: “I’ve never made a mass produced car. How am I supposed to know with precision when it’s going to get done?”
In reference to the charges against him brought by the SEC: “Nobody’s perfect,” adding: “I want to be clear – I do not respect the SEC.”
More news below.
Brexit or Breturn?
The European Court of Justice decided Monday morning that the United Kingdom could cancel Brexit with no further ado up until March 29, 2019. The ruling, one day ahead of a Parliamentary vote on the text of the Brexit treaty, gives members of Parliament an escape valve for frustration over the deal, which satisfies neither hard-line Brexiteers nor those who wish to remain in the European Union. A vote against the deal no longer implies a vote for a hard Brexit (a possibility that has led to stockpiling in grocery stores). Britain could instead cancel Brexit altogether by revoking Article 50, which it invoked in 2017 to initiate its exit. But that would require a change in government, because Theresa May’s Department for Exiting the EU issued a statement that it “will not be revoking Article 50.” CNBC.
Nissan president Carlos Ghosn and former director Greg Kelly underreported Ghosn’s income by tens of millions of dollars, Japanese prosecutors alleged today in their indictment. The indictment included the company, which removed Ghosn as chairman after his arrest three weeks ago. Nissan said it “expresses its deepest regret.” Kelly’s lawyer said his client thought the deferred payments were not reportable because they were not fixed. Wall Street Journal.
Paris is Churning
French President Emmanuel Macron will announce concessions to the yellow-vest protest movement tonight going beyond the planned fuel tax he has already scrapped. French authorities reported 264 people were injured during Saturday’s protests, including 39 police officers. A former Banque de France official estimates that the government can afford to hand the lowest earners some sweeteners in exchange for structural reforms after the European elections that will spur growth and reassure investors. Financial Times.
Asian markets lost ground today and European markets dipped from 0.3 to 0.6% this morning. This has been the worst December for stocks since 2008, according to Dow Jones Market Data Group. Labor mismatches may be costing the American economy jobs, though unemployment there was still at a five-decade low. Fox Business.
Around the Water Cooler
Beer-maker’s Billion-Dollar Bankruptcy
Vijay Mallya, who built a fortune on the back of Kingfisher beer in India, expanded into cricket and Formula 1 motor racing, and squandered it on Kingfisher Airlines, will find out today whether the United Kingdom will extradite him back to India. He faces charges there related to failure to pay his debts. He allegedly owes over $1 billion. BBC.
Next In Line
U.S. VP Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Nick Ayers, will not replace John Kelly, President Donald Trump’s chief of staff who Trump said Saturday will step down by the end of the month. The staff turnover in the White House has set records. Wall Street Journal.
Revamping Rotten Danske Bank
Danske Bank shareholders can hope that the revamped board will keep the bank cleaner than its ousted leaders did. Friday the bank replaced its chairman and in October replaced its CEO after a huge money laundering scandal involving hundreds of billions of dollars. Bloomberg.
SoftBank Hardens IPO
Japanese conglomerate SoftBank stuck to its initial guidance of ¥1,500 a share for its mobile unit IPO, scheduled for the 19th, without adding an indicative range, signaling confidence in demand for the offering. SoftBank said it will be watching Japanese government policy on interactions with Chinese telecoms giant Huawei. Financial Times.