DETROIT (AP) — U.S. securities regulators have responded to allegations they were harassing Elon Musk, writing in a letter that they were following a judge’s instructions in trying to speak with the Tesla CEO’s lawyers about the his posts on Twitter.
In a letter dated Friday, Steven Buchholz of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s San Francisco office wrote that the judge handling a securities case against Musk was encouraging the two sides to consult before raising issues with the court. .
He also denied that the agency issued subpoenas in the Musk Twitter case and 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.
Early Thursday, Musk’s attorneys sent a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan accusing the SEC of harassing him with investigations and subpoenas for his Twitter posts. In 2018, Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million in civil fines for 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.
Attorney Alex Spiro’s letter accuses the SEC of trying to “muzzle” Musk, largely because he is an outspoken critic of the government.
“The SEC’s outsized efforts appear calculated to chill its exercise of First Amendment rights rather than to enforce generally applicable laws impartially,” the letter said.
Spiro also questioned why the SEC hadn’t distributed the $40 million in fines to Tesla shareholders more than three years after the settlement.
Buccholz wrote that during a contempt hearing in 2019, the judge encouraged the parties to make good faith efforts to meet before raising any compliance issues with the court.
“The Commission’s law enforcement staff have therefore sought to meet and speak with attorneys for Tesla and Mr. Musk to address any concerns regarding Tesla’s and Mr. Musk’s compliance with the Amended Judgments of the court,” Buchholz wrote.
The SEC followed court orders in distributing the settlement money and that process is nearing completion, its letter says.