Management by Twitter poll is such a silly idea that it remains hard to believe Elon Musk was being sincere when he invited the site’s users to determine if he should continue as chief executive. One suspects he had already decided to hire an executive to front the business – which is what, note, he told a Delaware court he would do several weeks ago. The poll merely created a buzz.
In the unlikely event that users had voted to keep him as boss, Musk could have given roughly the same answer as the one he is giving now. In short, he will stay in charge for a while because a chief executive cannot be recruited overnight.
The bigger question is what real power a new Twitter chief executive will have. Not much, probably. Musk will continue to own Twitter and will be free to interfere. Even when confirming he’ll step down, he said he intends to be in charge of the software side. The vacancy sounds more like a chief operating officer position. Scope to defy Musk, even on minor policies, will always be limited.
The outcome, then, looks set to be extremely messy from the point of view of Tesla shareholders who would prefer a clean ending. Tesla’s stock price was $333 in April when the $44bn takeover bid was launched; it was $230 when the deal completed in late October; and it is now $137. Yes, the wider tech sector has been weak throughout the period; and, yes, higher interest rates are a factor, as Musk likes to argue. But his sales of shares in the electric car company (nearly $40bn-worth since late last year), his absence from day-to-day duties and the general blurring of lines have plainly contributed to the decline.
Musk’s stake in Tesla is only 13% so, in other circumstances, the board and shareholders would have some leverage to tell him to concentrate on the day job. That, though, is plainly not going to happen. For as long as Musk is describing Twitter as a plane heading for a crash landing, he will be hands-on, whatever his job title. This saga is going to run and run, and Tesla shareholders had better get used to the fact.
Qualifying for an F for failure in accountancy
A partner at a top UK accountancy firm can expect to earn close to £1m a year, so perhaps we should not be surprised that employees might cheat in the professional exams that are an entry requirement for the gravy train.
Even so, it’s a shocker that supposedly top-notch partnerships can’t be trusted to get their houses in order to run an honest exam system, which shouldn’t be the hardest task in the world given the financial resources at their disposal.
The Financial Reporting Council, the accountancy watchdog, didn’t give a detailed account of how widespread cheating is suspected to be in the UK. It hasn’t uncovered “systemic” issues, it said; on the other hand, there are “live” issues and its assessment is “ongoing”, which sounds bad enough. Indeed, American regulators have already fined the UK arm of KPMG.
The professional firms’ bigger failing is obviously the shocking number of auditing scandals in recent years. But there is a connection: if the exams are seen as open to abuse, the rot will spread.
Still too little light on the Bulb transfer
The government is finally lifting the veil – a little – on the terms of the transfer of Bulb, the bust energy supplier, to Octopus. As the deal completed, the business department said Octopus would get a funding facility of up to £4.5bn to cover the costs of buying energy for Bulb’s customers until the end of next March.
Actual use of the facility should be lower because wholesale energy prices have fallen recently (even if the outlook for early 2023 doesn’t look as good). So, even when counting the £1.1bn bill for taxpayers for owning Bulb for 12 months, we should not be on the hook for the £6.5bn cited by the Office for Budget Responsibility; its figure now looks a theoretical, but not very likely, accounting maximum.
What we haven’t got, though, is disclosure around what Octopus is paying for Bulb’s business (estimates of £100m-£200m have never been confirmed) or the terms of the loan being advanced. In the round, the level of transparency around this transaction remains appalling.