Elon Musk’s lawyers to make closing arguments in CEO’s pay package case

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk speaks with Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, Superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, during the Ira C. Eaker Distinguished Speaker Presentation in the Academy's Arnold Hall on April 7, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colo. (U.S. Air Force photo by Trevor cokley)

The legal teams of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and TSLA investor Richard Tornetta are expected to make their closing arguments on Tuesday. The shareholder, who held only nine TSLA shares when he filed his case in 2018, had alleged that the CEO dictated the terms of his pay package so that he could meet its targets. 

Musk’s current compensation plan was approved in 2018, and it involved an extremely high-risk, high-reward system comprised of 12 tranches. The package allows the CEO to purchase 1% of Tesla stock with a big discount for every milestone that is met. So far, Musk has accomplished 11 out of the 12 milestones outlined in his 2018 pay package. These milestones have contributed to Musk’s rising net worth, effectively making him the wealthiest person in the world. 

The arguments on Tuesday followed a five-day trial in November, which featured testimony from Musk himself, as well as other Tesla executives such as Board Chair Robyn Denholm. Tornetta’s lawyers had argued that the Tesla board should have offered a smaller pay package to Musk, or have at least required the CEO to work full-time at Tesla. The investor’s legal team pointed out Musk’s work on other projects, such as his acquisition of Twitter then, in their arguments. 

Tornetta ultimately seeks to have some of Musk’s 2018 pay package rescinded or fully revoked

Musk’s legal team, for their part, noted that as the CEO received his rewards, TSLA investors also saw their shares rise. These included the shares held by Tornetta. 

While Musk’s pay package may seem excessive or shockingly generous today, it should be noted that the compensation plan was proposed at a time when Tesla was just a $59 billion company that was in the middle of an extremely painful Model 3 ramp. Its high-risk, high-reward nature meant that if Musk were to fail, he would get absolutely nothing for his efforts. It was then no surprise that the compensation plan was laughed off by Tesla skeptics when it was proposed. At the time, after all, the idea of Tesla being a $650 billion company seemed farfetched. 

Tesla is worth $659 billion today, and that’s after the company passed an extremely difficult 2022. 

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Elon Musk’s lawyers to make closing arguments in CEO’s pay package case
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