Feb 17, 2022 - Technology

Elon Musk accuses SEC of attacking his right to free speech

Picture of Elon Musk
Photo: Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Thursday accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of undertaking a "harassment campaign" in an effort to "chill his exercise of First Amendment rights."

Driving the news: "[T]he SEC seems to be targeting Mr. Musk and Tesla for unrelenting investigation largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government," a lawyer for Musk said in a court filing.

The big picture: Musk's accusation came in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, who had presided over a 2018 settlement with the SEC.

  • As part of the settlement, Musk and Tesla each had to pay a $20 million fine, which was supposed to be distributed to shareholders. Musk also agreed to have company lawyers preapprove his social media posts.
  • In 2018, the SEC sued Musk of making "false and misleading" statements related to his abandoned efforts to take Tesla Motors private.
  • Musk had tweeted in August of that year that had "funding secured" for a takeover of the company at $420 per share.

Details: The court document says that the SEC has failed to pay Tesla's shareholders "the $40 million it collected as part of the settlement in these cases and that it purports to be holding for them."

  • "Instead, it has been devoting its formidable resources to endless, unfounded investigations into Mr. Musk and Tesla."
  • Later on Thursday, the judge responded to the letter ordering the SEC to file a response to Musk's letter by Feb. 24.

Musk's attorneys also accused the SEC of failing to distribute the shareholders' funds and asked the court to schedule a conference on the matter.

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