Elon Musk’s vow to hold on to Tesla stock fails to soothe investors

(Reuters) – Tesla Inc shares (TSLA.O) touched a fresh two-year low in volatile trading on Friday as boss Elon Musk’s promise to not sell his shares for at least two years did little to reassure investors.

Musk has offloaded shares worth $40 billion in the world’s most valuable carmaker since late last year, with $15 billion of that coming after he made similar pledges not to sell in April.

That, along with concerns about his distraction with newly bought Twitter and a slowdown in China’s economy, have set the electric-car maker’s shares on course for their worst year since going public in 2010.

The stock was last down 1.2% on Friday, after falling as much as 3.5% earlier to its lowest since September 2020.

“I won’t sell stock until I don’t know probably two years from now. Definitely not next year under any circumstances and probably not the year thereafter,” Musk said on Thursday.

“If Musk sells another billion or so dollars of shares in the near future, and that exerts downward price pressure on Tesla’s share price, investors might have a decent claim for securities fraud,” said Howard Fischer, a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) attorney and a partner at law firm Moses & Singer.

SEC rules require that public companies and their executives disclose accurate information that may be material to investors through channels that investors know to monitor. It does not usually specify how companies should do that.

Musk has had a history of trouble with U.S. securities regulators since he tweeted about taking Tesla private in 2018.

“Musk looks rattled, vowing not to sell more stock and floating the idea of share buybacks. Short-sellers are firmly in control and there is a lot of hesitation by retail to buy this dip,” said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.

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