Elon Musk's attorney accused the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday of taking advantage of a court agreement "to try to muzzle and harass Mr. Musk and Tesla," while failing to pay out the $40 million the SEC collected in fines.
Musk and Tesla signed an agreement with the SEC in 2018 over fraud charges after Musk tweeted he could take Tesla private without first filing appropriate regulatory notices to the SEC about the announcement. Tesla and Musk agreed to put in place controls to review Musk's tweets and pay $40 million in fines, which the SEC would distribute to shareholders.
The filing in New York accuses the SEC of taking advantage of that agreement by opening investigations and issuing subpoenas into Musk's further communications on Twitter without the permission of the court involved in the settlement. The filing also alleges that the SEC has failed to distribute the $40 million it collected in a timely and appropriate manner, violating the agreement.
Musk's attorney, Alex Spiro, also accused the SEC of trying to violate Musk's First Amendment rights. "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.