The standoff between US stock regulators and mercurial Tesla chief Elon Musk has taken a dramatic turn over a tweet that could cost the entrepreneur his job as CEO of the electric carmaker.
Musk, 47, is a visionary and inventive boss but is also highly unpredictable, especially on social network Twitter, where he often communicates in defiance of rules imposed on executives of publicly-traded companies.
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Monday accused him of violating the terms of a court-endorsed deal between him and the regulatory agency stating that he should avoid sending any tweet that could affect the price of Tesla shares.
On February 19, he tweeted that Tesla would make 500,000 cars in 2019 -- up from the 400,000 that the company had estimated until then, as it grapples with production problems with the Model 3.
Musk corrected himself four hours later, saying that Tesla would indeed produce about 400,000 cars this year: "Meant to say annualized production rate at end of 2019 probably around 500k."
But that correction was not enough for a federal judge, who gave Musk two weeks to explain why he should be spared from being held in contempt for violating the agreement with the SEC.