Elon Musk just dodged a bullet. It’s Tesla that bears the scars. Just a couple of days after the Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla Inc.’s chairman and CEO – an action he described as “unjustified” – Musk has settled. Without admitting wrongdoing in connection with his bizarre claims of having teed up a buyout of the company in August, Musk will pay a fine of $20 million and relinquish the position of chairman for at least three years.

Given the apparent strength of the SEC’s complaint, with so much evidence typed and broadcast by Musk’s own hand, this surely counts as a win for him. The fine is immaterial compared to the $8.9 billion value of his stake in Tesla. Crucially, he has avoided the ban on being an officer of a public company, as the SEC was seeking. Losing the chairmanship may rankle Musk. In practical terms, though, it’s too early to say how big a difference it will really make. As I wrote here, splitting the roles and getting someone in who can remake t...

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