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Tesla adds Larry Ellison, Walgreens exec to board

December 28, 2018

Tesla Inc. added Larry Ellison and Kathleen Wilson-Thompson to its board of directors Friday, fulfilling the terms of the settlement reached with U.S. securities regulators over its CEO’s problematic posts about taking the company private.

Ellison, the co-founder of Oracle Corp., and Wilson-Thompson, the global chief human resources officer of Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc., join a board the Securities and Exchange Commission ordered to step up its governance and oversight measures after Elon Musk claimed in August to have had the funding and investor support for a buyout. The chief executive officer relinquished the role of chairman in November, and both he and the company agreed to pay $20 million penalties.

The new additions to the board put a bookend on a months-long distraction that at one point looked like it may cost Musk his future with the company. While reining him in may prove challenging, they’ll help steer a carmaker that’s made significant strides in profitably making and delivering electric vehicles.

Tesla’s shares rose more than 4 percent to $331 as of 8:28 a.m. Friday in New York, before the start of regular trading. The stock was up 1.5 percent this year through the close Thursday.

Tesla’s board now has 11 members, including three women. This fall, California became the first U.S. state to mandate that publicly traded companies have women on their boards. Those with at least seven directors need to have at least three women by 2021.

The SEC moved to punish Tesla and Musk because it alleged he committed fraud by tweeting that he had the “funding secured” to take the company private at $420 a share. The agency said this and other claims the CEO made on Aug. 7 were false and misleading and impacted Tesla’s stock.

Musk and Tesla reached the settlement with the SEC on Sept. 29 that gave the company 90 days to add directors and take other actions. Since then, the CEO has publicly lampooned the agency and bristled at the notion that he’ll change his Twitter habits or be reined in by the board.

Tesla’s legal department also has been going through shakeups since Musk’s run-in with the SEC.

The company tapped Dane Butswinkas, the Washington trial lawyer who represented the CEO in his legal battle with the agency, earlier this month to become general counsel. He’ll replace Todd Maron, who’s leaving Tesla in January after five years. Before he joined the company, he represented Musk through two divorces.

In November, Phil Rothenberg, a vice president on Tesla’s legal staff, left to became general counsel at Sonder, a hospitality startup. Rothenberg previously worked at the SEC.

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