In a time when information is increasingly shared through social media, companies—particularly publicly traded ones—must recognize and consider the potential legal ramifications that could arise from statements made by executives, board members, and/or other employees about the company on social media. Though the actions of a certain well-known technology entrepreneur have provided perhaps the most prominent example of these ramifications, there are plenty of other cautionary tales reminding us that a powerful marketing tool that allows company CEOs to connect directly with consumers carries a host of possible legal consequences. Among the most potentially damaging—time-consuming and costly securities-related litigation, both with complaints involving the SEC and private shareholder litigation.
Last Tuesday afternoon, Elon Musk tweeted from his personal handle, “Am considering taking Tesla private at $420. Funding secured.” These words drove Tesla’s share prices up by 10% on Tuesday before Nasdaq halted trading, increasing Musk’s estimated net worth by $1.4 billion dollars.
Since then, there has been a lot of speculation about Musk’s tweet, including about whether it violated SEC rules. News outlets reported last week that the SEC has contacted Tesla to inquire as to the accuracy of the tweet, a move that could indicate the start of a more formal investigation.
When it comes to finding ways of making money, no corner of a capitalistic society shall go unmined. This applies to obvious goods and services but also comes into play with our very thoughts and how we express them. In the age of social media, not even the framed needlepoint proverb is safe from “disruption”: behold, the framed tweet.