Tesla’s newly hired chief accounting officer abruptly resigned on Tuesday, the company has disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. He had been on the job for less than a month.
In the filing, now-former Tesla executive Dave Morton said that he was leaving because “the level of public attention placed on the company as well as the pace within the company have exceeded my expectations.”
“I want to be clear that I believe strongly in Tesla, its mission, and its future prospects, and I have no disagreements with Tesla’s leadership or its financial reporting,” Morton added.
But this may be a situation where actions speak louder than words. Tesla’s stock is down more than six percent to $262, the lowest level since April.
Musk’s “funding secured” tweet caused headaches
Morton joined Tesla on August 6, one day before Musk’s infamous tweet claiming that he had “funding secured” to take Tesla private. Musk was forced to abandon the plan a couple of weeks later. Not only did Musk not have any kind of written funding deal, many Tesla investors saw little upside in approving a deal that would reduce Tesla’s transparency and the liquidity of Tesla stock.
Morton didn’t explicitly mention last month’s buyout saga in his statement explaining his departure. But a lot of the “public attention” Tesla received during Morton’s brief tenure was focused on the possibility of Tesla going private. It’s safe to assume that members of Tesla’s finance team were working overtime on issues related to the proposal during Morton’s month at Tesla.
Also today, Tesla human resources chief Gaby Toledano announced that she would not be returning to Tesla after taking a leave of absence last month.
Musk is under a lot of pressure
Elon Musk has never been a conventional CEO, but his behavior has seemed increasingly erratic in recent weeks. In an email to Buzzfeed earlier this week, Musk repeated his totally unsubstantiated accusations of pedophilia against British cave diver Vernon Unsworth (Unsworth’s lawyer calls Musk’s comments “vile and false” and vowed to sue Musk for libel). An episode of Joe Rogan’s popular podcast released today seemed to show Musk smoking marijuana—something that’s legal under California law but remains illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
In an interview with the New York Times last month, Musk acknowledged that he was having the most “painful year of my career.” Over the last year, Tesla has been under immense pressure to meet ambitious production targets for the Model 3.
At the end of June, after several months of delays, Tesla finally, barely, achieved its goal of producing 5,000 Model 3 cars per month. But according to Musk, Tesla’s achievements have left the CEO with little time to spend with friends and family. The immense pressure Musk is facing may be a factor in his erratic behavior.