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Judge Denies Elon Musk's Bid to End 2018 Settlement With SEC

The judge says Musk "knowingly and willingly" agreed to oversight of his social media posts about Tesla.

Elon Musk, wearing a suit, arrives at federal court in New York
Elon Musk struck a $44 billion deal earlier this week to buy Twitter.
Natan Dvir/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal judge on Wednesday denied Elon Musk's request to undo part of his 2018 settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission that required oversight of some of his social media posts about Tesla. 

Last month, Musk asked the court to terminate the consent decree that was part of the settlement, which requires Tesla counsel to vet his tweets about the electric car company. The settlement also required Musk to step down from Tesla's board and pay a $20 million fine. Musk alleged the oversight policy had become unworkable and that the SEC was carrying out a "harassment campaign" against him and Tesla. 

US District Judge Lewis Liman wrote in the opinion that Musk "knowingly and willingly" entered into the consent decree with the SEC in 2018 and cannot now "complain that this provision violates his First Amendment rights."

"Musk's argument that the SEC has used the consent decree to harass him and to launch investigations of his speech is likewise meritless and, in this case, particularly ironic," the judge added. 

Tesla and the SEC have been locked in an ongoing legal battle that stems from a social media post by 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. 

Despite the order Wednesday, an attorney for Musk maintains that the Telsa CEO's statements were truthful.

"Nothing will ever change the truth which is that Elon Musk was considering taking Tesla private and could have," said Alex Spiro, Musk's lawyer, in an emailed statement. "All that's left some half decade later is remnant litigation which will continue to make that truth clearer and clearer."

The SEC declined to comment. 

Earlier this month, Musk, who runs Tesla, SpaceX and other companies, struck a $44 billion deal to buy Twitter, which he plans to take private. He's indicated he wants looser content moderation for the platform, a change that could have outsized influence on politics and society.