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Elon Musk Was Challenged More Than Once This Weekend – Why He Ignored That

You must have heard about Musk’s challenges this past weekend, but probably not about the ones that matter. The notorious one was when he dared Parag Agrawal to prove Twitter has less than 5% of fake or spam daily users. That is the excuse he is using to try to escape the contract he signed to buy Twitter after dismissing the need for due diligence. However, the challenges that really matter were posed by Cristina Balan and Rick Bomstein.
Elon MuskElon MuskElon MuskElon MuskElon Musk Jokes About Bankruptcy When It Was a Legitimate ConcernElon Musk got himself involved in three challenges and only two really matter
We have already told you Balan’s story. The Romanian engineer worked for Tesla in its early years. Her contributions to the EV maker led it to carve her initials in the battery pack lids she helped design. When Musk told all employees they should address him directly, she felt she should warn him about some things that were not going well in her department. After that, Balan was forced to quit her job. Later, Tesla published a text accusing her of serious crimes.

Balan has been trying to prove her innocence and present her evidence in court. Tesla has been forcing her to take matters to arbitration because of the agreement it makes most sign when they join the company. The engineer and “CAD Fairy” – as her colleagues used to call her – is now fighting forced arbitration as well.

After the engineer saw Musk’s challenge to the Twitter CEO, she decided to invert the game and dared the Tesla CEO to prove something he tweeted a while ago. In that tweet (embedded below), Musk said, "Tesla policy is never to give in to false claims, even if we would lose, and never to fight true claims, even if we would win.”

Balan said this is not her experience with Tesla. According to her, the company knows she was never involved in embezzlement or kickback, as the EV maker accused her in a story published by the Huffington Post. Due to that text, Balan never managed to be hired again by any automaker.

The engineer said that Tesla should face her in court to present its evidence to accuse her of such crimes. As the accuser, Tesla should be the most interested party in publicly showing what it has against Balan. Yet, the company insists on the secrecy of arbitration. The Romanian engineer believes that the problem is that she would also be allowed to present what she has. Balan would also request some documents to prove Tesla wrong.

The truth is that the public challenge is not necessary to prove her point: it is pretty clear that what Musk said is not true. We can start by the very subject in which he said Tesla would not fight true claims: the voltage capping software update that led several Tesla customers to sue the company. They said the company capped the voltage to conceal fire risks the battery pack allegedly presented.

Although Tesla tried to reach a deal with the American customers – which allowed it to keep the software update rationale secret – it appealed a decision in Norway with buyers affected by the same issue. They won their lawsuit against the EV maker in a default judgment. If Tesla knows it was wrong about the software, why is it appealing the decision? The EV maker is allegedly trying to revert the decision.

There are other examples. On October 4, 2021, Tesla lost a racism lawsuit against Owen Diaz, a contract worker that faced very distressing situations at the Fremont factory while he worked there. The jury found that what Diaz reported was true. Tesla asked for a new judgment to avoid paying him $136.9 million.

The federal judge William Orrick denied the company a new trial because he considered racism was well proven but lowered the damages Tesla would have to pay. Diaz refused the reduced damages and agreed to a new judgment, which shows he is confident his case will prevail in court once again.

If Tesla’s argument is that it is fighting the decision because it is a false claim, it must talk to the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH), which accuses the company of “systematic racial discrimination and harassment.” The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued a cause finding against the EV maker. If they cannot reach a deal with the mandatory conciliation process, the EEOC will sue Tesla for civil rights violations in federal court, possibly related to racism.

Ironically, some Tesla shareholders try to make the company more accountable in every annual meeting. They proposed that the company reports its efforts in preventing racial discrimination and sexual harassment on its premises and even water risks, which have been the main reason for Giga Grünheide being delayed for so long. None of these propositions were approved, possibly because of Musk’s voting rights: he is a vocal opponent of more transparency in those areas.

What the Tesla CEO tweeted and Balan challenged probably relates just to the EV maker, not Musk. When he called Vernon Unsworth a “pedo guy” in a tweet, he knew he was wrong about the man who helped save 12 boys from a cave in Thailand in June 2018.

When Unsworth sued him – something Musk challenged him to do – the Tesla CEO should have publicly apologized and tried to make a deal. Instead, he fought Unsworth and was absolved from the defamation charges, saying that his faith in humanity was restored by the verdict. Unsworth’s lawyers said the decision showed people could make false accusations and get away with it. In other words, Musk was wrong, but he fought to prove otherwise: that’s the very opposite of what he said Tesla’s motto is.

The second challenge the Tesla CEO received came from Rick Bomstein, a man who does not exist. The satyrical Twitter profile dared Musk to prove FSD “ is safer than a human driver, as he has claimed multiple times.” The California California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) accused the EV maker of exaggerating Autopilot’s and Full Self-Driving’s (FSD) capabilities. That’s a more official challenge about the same situation.

Musk would probably lose this dispute. In Germany, Tesla has been condemned to buy at least three cars so far due to issues with Autopilot and the European FSD equivalent. In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has an Engineering Analysis going on about Tesla’s advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). This is the last step before a recall.

Of the three challenges – that we are aware of – in which Musk is involved, none paints him in a good light. The one he proposed is widely seen as a shameful attempt to escape a deal Musk pursued in the first place. The other two could expose him as a hypocrite and a liar if he accepted them. So far, Musk is ignoring both as much as Agrawal is ignoring his. These seem to be challenges that only the U.S. courts and agencies will be able to solve.

Editor's note: The gallery contains pictures of Elon Musk.


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