If you're a billionaire.
Count it out. One billion dollars is one thousand million dollars. If you have one thousand million dollars, $20 million is of the same consequence as losing a $20 under a sofa cushion is to the rest of us.
Elon Musk is reportedly worth somewhere in the vicinity of $23 billion. For him, the $20 million fine imposed by the SEC for fraud amounts to the same as losing a penny behind the sofa cushions for the rest of us.
So, effectively, a slap on the wrist – for fraud. For actually causing harm.
Contrast the kid-glove treatment meted out to Elon with the NKVD-style inquisition visited upon Martha Stewart – a productive woman whose businesses didn't have a taxpayer pickpocket division
She was vengefully pursued by the feds over what they styled "insider trading" – but were unable to prove in court. They then pursued her even more vengefully for "conspiracy" – which is government-speak for some intangible thing which amounts to we're gonna-get-you-sucker, for something.
Usually that something is failing to help the government put you behind bars by witnessing against yourself.
So they got her on that – they can get anyone on that – and put her behind bars for it. To ice the cake, they sent her to an especially bleak and distant clink located in Alderson, West Virginia – far from her family in New England and contrary to her request to be caged closer to them, at the clink in Danbury, CT. The Department of Justice (sic) denied her request, claiming that caging Stewart in Connecticut would make it too easy for the media to get to her.
No Hotel Graybar for Elon, though. Not even an ankle bracelet. And while he was forced to resign as chairman of Tesla, he's still not only on the board of directors of Tesla, he is still the CEO – and thus, his punishment is as meaningful as the chump change fine.
Despite his entire enterprise being a gigantic fraud.
Not merely his Tweets.
Consider his shady marketing, for instance. He touts his $35,000 Model 3 – the model thousands of people have put earnest money deposits on – as being "affordable" and by dint of that, the model which will sell in quantity sufficient to make Tesla profitable on its own two legs (rather than depending for profit on its taxpayer pickpocket division – including tax-refund bribes to people who buy Teslas).
The problem is that Model 3 – the "affordable" one – isn't being produced. The Model 3 which is being produced costs closer to $50k – and Elon charges extra for any paint color other than black.
This Model 3 at least has a range greater than 150 miles (the range of the "affordable" Model 3, which has a weaker – but cheaper – battery pack). He touts the range of the $50k Model 3 – but not the price.
Or the unavailability of the $35k one.
Ordinary car dealers get in trouble if they bait-and-switch customers too blatantly, advertising a low price for a model they don't stock on purpose to lure people into the store and then hard-selling them the loaded, much more expensive stuff they've got on the floor.