US securities authorities have reacted to accusations that they are harassing Tesla CEO Elon Musk, saying that they are following a judge’s orders in attempting to meet with his attorneys about his tweets about taking the firm private.
The judge considering a securities complaint against Mr. Musk invited all parties to communicate before raising problems with the court, according to Steven Buchholz of the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) San Francisco Office in a letter.
He also disputed that the SEC has issued subpoenas in the Musk Twitter case and that the SEC is taking too long to deliver a $40 million (£29 million) penalty to Tesla shareholders.
Mr. Musk’s attorneys wrote to US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan early on Thursday, accusing the SEC of harassing him with probes and subpoenas over his Twitter statements.
Mr. Musk and Tesla agreed to pay civil penalties totaling 20 million dollars (£14.6 million) in 2018 in response to Mr. Musk’s comments about having enough money to take Tesla private for 420 dollars (£308) per share.
The investment was not guaranteed, and the firm is still open to the public. Mr. Musk’s ouster as board chairman, as well as approval of Mr. Musk’s tweets, were all included in the settlement.
The letter, written by attorney Alex Spiro, accuses the SEC of attempting to “muzzle” Mr. Musk, primarily because he is a vocal critic of the government.
“Rather than enforcing generally applicable statutes in an even-handed manner, the SEC’s outsized efforts seem geared to limit his use of First Amendment rights,” the letter claimed.
Mr. Spiro also questioned why, for more than three years after the settlement, the SEC had yet to deliver the $40 million in penalties to Tesla stockholders.
During a 2019 contempt hearing, the judge urged the parties to make good faith efforts to meet before bringing any compliance difficulties to the court’s attention, according to Mr Buccholz.
Mr. Buchholz said, “As a result, the Commission’s enforcement team has sought to meet and consult with counsel for Tesla and Mr. Musk to resolve any concerns about Tesla and Mr. Musk’s compliance with the court’s modified judgments.”
According to his letter, the SEC has followed court instructions in dispersing the settlement funds, and the process is approaching completion.