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Mar 18, 2019

U.S. SEC stunned that Musk failed to get pre-approval of tweets

More Twitter trouble for Tesla CEO Musk

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said it’s “stunning” that Elon Musk didn’t seek pre-approval of any of his tweets about Tesla Inc. (TSLA.O) in the months since he was ordered by a judge to do so.

Musk’s August tweets about taking Tesla private resulted in US$40 million in fines, the appointment of two independent board directors and the replacement of Musk as chairman. His settlement with the SEC, approved by a judge in October, called for Tesla to designate an attorney to pre-approve company-related tweets. The electric-car maker appointed one in late December, but that person is monitoring the tweets in real time, not approving them beforehand.

The agency on Monday reiterated its request that the judge find Musk in contempt of court, saying it has learned that Tesla’s chief executive “had not sought pre-approval for a single one of the numerous tweets about Tesla he published in the months since the court-ordered pre-approval policy went into effect.”

The agency emphasized that Tesla production forecasts have long been significant to market participants who follow the company.

“Such brazen disregard of this court’s order is unacceptable and unworkable going forward," the SEC said in the filing. “The SEC requests that this court hold Musk in contempt and impose an appropriate remedy to ensure future compliance."

John Hueston, a lawyer representing Musk, wrote to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan, requesting permission to file a response by March 22. Hueston said the response would include documents reflecting the negotiation history between Musk and the SEC, which he said would undermine the SEC’s new assertions.

If U.S. Judge Nathan finds Musk in contempt, she’s empowered to impose new fines, order additional controls on Musk’s social-media use, and even suspend or bar him from running Tesla or any other public company.

The case is U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission v. Musk, 18-cv-08865, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).