Elon Musk and his legal team escalate the war of words with the SEC


DETROIT — Elon Musk and his attorneys are stepping up their fight with U.S. securities regulators, with a lawyer accusing them of leaking investigative information and the Tesla TSLA,
CEO alleging on Twitter that government corruption is exposed.

Musk’s tweet early Tuesday and a Monday letter from Musk’s attorney Alex Spiro to a federal judge gave no details of the leak, but the actions sparked a war of words with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The agency isn’t the only federal regulator Musk is struggling with. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently stepped up the crackdown on Tesla. Last week, Musk called the agency “funny police” for forcing Tesla to recall a “Boombox” feature that can play sounds over an external speaker and dim audible warnings for pedestrians.

The safety agency has launched multiple investigations into Tesla and is overseeing 15 Tesla recalls since January 2021. The recalls include “Full Self-Driving” software being programmed run stop signs at slow speeds. Investigations include unexpected braking by Tesla vehicles.

On Monday, Spiro filed another letter with U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan accusing at least one SEC staffer of leaking information about an investigation into Musk and Tesla’s compliance with a court order. court seeking to control his tweets.

“It has become increasingly clear that the commission is prepared to retaliate against my clients for exercising their First Amendment rights,” Spiro wrote.

On Tuesday morning, Musk tweeted that the allegations “just peel off the first layer of the onion of corruption. Stay tuned.” No details were given.

The SEC declined to comment on Tuesday and messages were left asking for details about the Tesla and Spiro leak allegations.

The SEC spat dates back to 2018, when Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in civil fines on Musk’s tweets about having the money to take the company private at $420 a share. Funding was far from secure and the company remains public. The settlement specified governance changes, including ousting Musk as chairman of the board, as well as approving Musk’s tweets.

After Spiro filed a letter with the court accusing the SEC of harassing Musk, the SEC responded with a letter saying it was following Nathan’s instructions in trying to speak with Musk’s attorneys about his Twitter posts.

In a letter dated Friday, Steven Buchholz of the SEC office in San Francisco wrote that the judge encouraged the two parties to consult before raising issues with the court.

He also denied the agency issued subpoenas in the Musk Twitter case and denied Spiro’s allegation that the SEC is taking too long to hand out a $40 million fine to Musk and Tesla that is supposed to go to Tesla shareholders.

Spiro sent a letter Thursday accusing the SEC of harassing Musk with investigations and subpoenas over his Twitter posts.

And in other Tesla regulatory news, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday it had reached a settlement with the electric car maker over Clean Air Act violations at its Fremont plant, in California. Tesla agreed to pay a $275,000 fine for violations from October 2016 through September 2019 in the plant’s vehicle coating operations, the EPA said.


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