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Elon Musk Accuses SEC of Attacking His Right to Free Speech With 'Unrelenting' Probe

The Tesla CEO continues to speak his mind on social media -- and in court filings.

Elon Musk at Tesla Gigafactory in Germany
CEO Elon Musk visits the Tesla Gigafactory in Brandenburg, Germany.
Patrick Pleul/Picture alliance via Getty Image

Tesla and Elon Musk lashed out at the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, accusing the agency of carrying out a "harassment campaign" against the CEO and his electric car company over a 2018 regulatory settlement.

The SEC is targeting Musk with "unrelenting" investigations in an attempt to "chill his exercise of First Amendment rights," a lawyer for Musk said in a letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan, who presided over the 2018 settlement. The letter comes after Tesla disclosed earlier this month that the SEC issued a new subpoena to the company in November 2021 seeking information on Tesla's compliance with the settlement.

Tesla and the SEC have been locked in an ongoing legal battle that stems from a social media post from Musk in 2018, when he told his 22 million followers at the time on Twitter that he was poised to take the car company private. The SEC sued Musk for "false and misleading" statements to investors. A settlement was reached in September 2018, which included Musk and Tesla each paying $20 million and SEC oversight of some of Musk's posts on social media.

The SEC has not yet distributed their $40 million in fines to shareholders, according to the court filing. Instead, the SEC has been "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 the $40 million that it continues to hold," the lawyer said in the letter. 

The SEC declined to comment.