The thing about Elon Musk is that whatever it is he’s involved with, the guy wants you to think it’s about something else, something bigger. Tesla isn’t about cars — it’s about the future or the environment or innovation. SpaceX isn’t a rocket-maker; it’s a save-the-human-race-from-extinction company.With Twitter v. Musk, the suit isn’t just about whether the world’s richest man can save $43 billion or so by backing out of an agreement to buy Twitter. There’s a deeper question, one Musk may not like observers asking:Does Elon Musk think he’s bigger than the law?
Law is often made through unusual cases, and there’s a trail of them behind Musk, going as far back to his days with Zip2, his first internet mapping company from shortly after dropping out of Stanford. Since then, he has been challenging corporate law in bigger and weirder ways. There’s Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of SolarCity, of which Musk was chairman and the major shareholder. There’s the “funding secured” tweet two years later about taking Tesla private, which ended with a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and his resignation as Tesla’s chairman. Despite settling, Musk continues to say that he actually didn’t do anything wrong with the tweet — and earlier this year, he won a suit against a group of shareholders that challenged the SolarCity deal even though Tesla’s directors settled.
How did you get the idea of starting a class about Elon Musk and his effect on the law?
He’s generating a lot of really interesting case law out of Delaware. Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity is an excellent case to teach students. And then there is a pending case on his Tesla CEO-compensation package, which is a great case because it’s what will strike the students as an egregious amount of money — billions of dollars in CEO compensation — in excess of anything we’ve ever seen. It’s a great case to talk about: Is this a situation in which it would be rational for a company to put together that sort of a compensation package?
There are all these cases from different areas that all involve Musk, and given how high profile he is this year with Twitter and everything, I thought this would be a way of really grabbing the students’ attention.