Neuralink exec Shivon Zilis defends Elon Musk's $55 billion Tesla pay package

  • Neuralink exec Shivon Zilis is coming to Elon Musk's defense after he was dealt a blow in court.

  • A Delaware judge on Tuesday voided Musk's $55 billion pay package at Tesla.

  • Zilis, who shares twins with Musk, says the ruling "pours water on creating incentives for true exceptionalism."

Neuralink director Shivon Zilis is coming to Elon Musk's defense after his Tesla pay package was voided.

A Delaware judge on Tuesday swatted down Musk's $55 billion Tesla pay package, siding with a shareholder who argued that Musk's pay as CEO was excessive.

"The process leading to the approval of Musk's compensation plan was deeply flawed," Court of Chancery Judge Kathaleen St. J. McCormick wrote in her ruling. "Musk had extensive ties with the persons tasked with negotiating on Tesla's behalf."

Zilis is a director at Musk's startup Neuralink, which makes computer chips designed to be implanted in the brain; Musk said this week that a Neuralink chip has been implanted in a human patient's brain for the first time. Zilis also shares twins with Musk. She stood by his Tesla compensation package in a social media post on Wednesday.

"America should be encouraging those who are willing to take literally zero unless they actually perform and get significant upside only when there is sustained and ungamable performance beyond anyone's wildest dreams vs golden parachute exec packages that allow for payouts even in the case of failure," she wrote.

Musk doesn't get a salary from Tesla. Instead, his pay package included a 10-year grant of 12 tranches of stock options that vest if Tesla meets certain performance targets; the company has said it's met all 12 targets. For each tranche, Musk vests stock options equal to roughly 1% of the company's total outstanding shares at the time.

"There are so many anti-meritocratic situations where people take money off the table while destroying shareholder value," Zilis wrote. "This is what's unfair to shareholders, not participating in upside that one actually puts blood, sweat, and tears in to create (and that wouldn't have otherwise existed)."

"This ruling unfortunately pours water on creating incentives for true exceptionalism, value creations, and meritocracy," she added. "Participating in genuine value creation and not being awarded for failure should be how compensation works."

Musk, for his part, responded to the ruling Tuesday on X, formerly known as Twitter.

"Never incorporate your company in the state of Delaware," Musk wrote.

The ruling, which Tesla can appeal, threatens Musk's status as the world's richest person. As of this writing, he still holds the title, with a net worth of $205 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Without the compensation plan, he's expected to fall from the top spot.

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