Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has warned board members of Tesla that the recent acquisition of Twitter by Elon Musk could present conflicts of interest for the electric automaker.
In a letter to Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm, Warren expressed her concern that Musk may not be fulfilling his legal obligation to act in the best interests of Tesla and all of its shareholders, and that he may be treating the company as a “private plaything.”
Warren also raised questions about Musk’s reported use of Tesla engineers to assume control of the social media company’s code immediately following the acquisition. She suggested that this could violate his legal “duty of loyalty to Tesla” and “trigger questions” about the board’s responsibility to prevent such actions.
“Musk’s acquisition of Twitter and his simultaneous management of both Twitter and Tesla raise significant legal questions about conflicts of interest, compliance with labor laws, and misappropriation of corporate resources,” she wrote.
Additionally, Warren expressed concern that Twitter could artificially suppress advertising traffic for automakers that compete with Tesla, or that Musk could promote competitors in order to raise “badly-needed revenue” for his acquisition.
The Senator also cited statistics that found “hate speech” impressions have risen after the buyout, providing a larger platform for “Nazis, virulent sexism, and climate misinformation” in a way that could harm the Tesla brand image.
Musk has directly contested these claims, and recently slammed activist groups for pressuring advertisers to abandon the platform over the purported rise in undesirable speech.
In her letter, Warren asked about specific oversight measures board members have created to determine whether Musk is adequately leading the automaker.
“Musk and Tesla are inextricably intertwined, and while this close relationship has benefited the company in the past, recent developments may have brought a series of negatives to the forefront,” Warren concluded.
Musk, the serial entrepreneur and CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, recently remarked that he still oversees both companies, but that the teams are so good that often little is needed from him. This sentiment was further echoed in court last month, when Musk stated that he holds no desire to be a chief executive of any company.