Yet again, Tesla could be facing some serious legal trouble, as it is being investigated by the federal government. But this time it’s not for allegations of lying to customers about the ranges of its electric vehicles, or for crashes caused by its Autopilot feature, or for its seat belts falling off.
The story first emerged last year after an executive at Tesla who was known as Musk’s “top lieutenant” was fired from the company after placing an order for “special glass” for a “secret project,” which triggered an internal investigation, Electrek reported. The executive was apparently later rehired at SpaceX.
At the time it was not known what the “secret project” was, but now, reporting from The Wall Street Journal has revealed that the project, known internally as “Project 42,” is a new glass mansion for Musk being built near Tesla’s headquarters in Austin, Texas.
That reporting has triggered investigations from both the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as it goes against several rules for the CEO of a publicly traded company to use company funds for a private project.
“This is a weird situation; Elon is the richest man on Earth. He certainly doesn’t need Tesla to build him a house,” Electrek’s Fred Lambert wrote. “If true, it could be a sign that the CEO is becoming disconnected from reality and thinks he is above the rules. It’s not like there were no other signs of that lately.”
Musk, whose recent antics include spreading COVID-19 conspiracy theories and promoting transphobia (among many other offensive and controversial behaviors), was cited in a recent survey as the most prominent reason why Tesla owners are turning away from the brand.
“It’s no secret that Elon hasn’t done Tesla any favors given his erratic behavior over Twitter and the like, but if there is any truth at all to this, then the shareholders need to give him the boot before he tarnishes Tesla’s reputation for good,” wrote one commenter.
“Musk is the richest man alive ON PAPER,” another commenter speculated. “The actual amount of cash he has on hand is extremely small compared to his overall wealth. On top of that he’s likely trying to get around paying taxes on these types of purchases and attempting to claim it as a business expense.”
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