Wall Street

Greenlight's David Einhorn tells investors how he really feels about Elon Musk

Key Points
  • In his quarterly investor letter, Greenlight Capital's David Einhorn calls Tesla a "bizarre" situation.
  • Einhorn says the SEC's failure to remove Elon Musk as CEO shows the Tesla chief is "above the law." 
David Einhorn, president of Greenlight Capital.
Katie Young | CNBC

Greenlight Capital is still betting against electric car maker Tesla, and the hedge fund's manager isn't mincing words about his opinion of Elon Musk.

In a quarterly letter to investors on Tuesday, Greenlight's David Einhorn called Tesla a "bizarre situation" and called out CEO Musk on his recent run-in with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Musk reached a $20 million settlement last year with the agency over allegations he committed securities fraud when he announced on Twitter that he wanted to take Tesla private and suggested he had "funding secured" for such a transaction. A copy of Einhorn's letter was obtained by CNBC's Scott Wapner.

In addition to the fine, Musk had to step down as Tesla chairman for at least three years and agree to have his public statements about the company monitored. But he was allowed to remain as CEO, and he told a CBS "60 Minutes" correspondent in December that he didn't respect the SEC.

Einhorn, who founded Greenlight Capital in 1996, seized on the comment to lash out at Musk, and the SEC, in his investor letter. "Why should he?," Einhorn wrote of Musk's respect comment. "After all, he committed blatant market manipulation and was rewarded with a fine, which he said was 'worth it.'"

The fact that he wasn't forced to resign from Tesla showed "if you are as important as Elon Musk, removal is not a serious option. He is above the law," Einhorn wrote.

The hedge fund manager and car CEO have locked horns in recent months. Einhorn has called Tesla's business model another Lehman Brothers in waiting, a reference to the investment bank that collapsed in 2008. Einhorn had raised questions about Lehman's accounting just months before that event, and last year he said "Like Lehman, we think the deception is about to catch up to TSLA."

Einhorn told his investors last year that he was glad his Tesla Model S lease had expired, a quip that drew a Twitter taunt from Musk.

Shares of Tesla rose 4 percent last year but are down 12 percent this year.