Tesla says that the Securities and Exchange Commission has failed to distribute $40 million to company shareholders because its CEO Elon Musk is an “outspoken critic of the government,” making him a target. The payout was part of the 2018 settlement Tesla agreed on with the SEC after a Musk tweet regarding taking Tesla stock public.
Tesla says the SEC is “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.”
A letter was written to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York by Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro. “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 said in the letter.
Spiro’s letter claims that the SEC has been withholding the funds owed to Tesla investors since the 2018 settlement. Tesla states that the SEC has no concrete plan on how it will distribute the sizeable sum to affected shareholders. According to Fox Business, Rust Consulting was appointed to distribute the funds to investors last May. The Court, which appointed Rust to handle the funds, said in a December 21st filing that the firm had sent no status reports on the disbursement plan. It was ordered to file one by January 7th.
The settlement in question is related to the 2018 Tweet that Musk sent out around 12:48 PM on August 7th. Musk stated that he was entertaining taking Tesla private at $420. “Funding secured,” he said.
The SEC stated that Musk’s actions were “false and misleading.” Tesla and Musk both paid a $20M penalty, which is the $40M payout that Spiro mentioned in his letter. Additionally, Tesla was required to hire two new board members, Musk was removed from his position as Chairman of the Board of Tesla, and the company was required to monitor his communications on Twitter before they were published.
Spiro said in the letter that a scheduled hearing could help bring closure to the SEC-Musk rivalry. Spiro said that a hearing could bring the agency’s “harassment campaign to an end, while ensuring that the SEC finally delivers, at long last, on its commitment to Tesla’s shareholders.”
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