The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has pushed back against Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s allegations that the agency was harassing him and attempting to “chill” his First Amendment rights. In a letter, the SEC stated that they are following a judge’s instructions when trying to speak to Musk’s lawyers about the executive’s posts on Twitter.
Steven Buchholz of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s San Francisco Office wrote in a letter this Friday that the judge handling a securities case against the Tesla CEO had encouraged both Musk and the SEC to speak and communicate before either side raised issues in court. “The Commission’s enforcement staff have, accordingly, sought to meet and confer with counsel for Tesla and Mr. Musk to address any concerns regarding Tesla and Mr. Musk’s compliance with the court’s amended judgments,” Buchholz wrote.
According to Tesla’s letter, which was written to the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by lawyer Alex Spiro, the SEC was “weaponizing the consent decree by using it to try to muzzle and harass Mr. Musk and Tesla, while ignoring its court-ordered duty to remit $40 million that it continues to hold while Tesla’s shareholders continue to wait.”
Spiro also accused the SEC of targeting Musk and Tesla with consistent investigations due to the CEO’s overt criticism of the government. “The SEC seems to be targeting Mr. Musk and Tesla for unrelenting investigation largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government. The SEC’s outsized efforts seem calculated to chill his exercise of First Amendment rights rather than to enforce generally applicable laws in evenhanded fashion,” Spiro wrote.
Apart from highlighting the judge’s stance on communication between Tesla, Musk, and the SEC, Buchholz also rejected the notion that the agency is taking too long to distribute $40 million worth of penalties to TSLA shareholders, which were paid by Musk and Tesla following the “funding secured” fiasco in 2018. Buchholz stated that the funds are yet to be distributed to TSLA shareholders because the process involved in doing so is extremely complex. He noted, however, that the SEC has been working on a plan to share and distribute the $40 million to the EV maker’s investors, which should be ready around March 2022.
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