Elon Musk's attorney accuses SEC of leaking details of probe

Mr Elon Musk's external counsel claimed in a letter last week that the SEC was targeting the Tesla CEO with "unrelenting investigation". PHOTO: REUTERS

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA (BLOOMBERG) - An attorney for Elon Musk, in a letter to a judge, has accused the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of leaking details of its investigation, the latest in an ongoing battle between the regulatory agency and the world's richest person.

The SEC reached settlements with Tesla and its chief executive officer in September 2018 after suing Mr Musk over his infamous "funding secured" tweets in which he claimed to have investor support for taking Tesla private at US$420 a share.

Earlier this month, Tesla disclosed in a regulatory filing that the agency sought information about the company's governance processes and compliance with the settlements on Nov 16. Mr Alex Spiro, Mr Musk's external counsel, claimed in a letter last week that the SEC was targeting Mr Musk with "unrelenting investigation" because the CEO is "an outspoken critic of the government".

"After I filed the Feb 17, 2022, letter to this court regarding the commission's conduct, at least one member of the SEC staff responded by leaking certain information regarding its investigation," Mr Spiro said in a new letter on Monday (Feb 22).

"This leak is emblematic of the vindictive, improper conduct that occasioned my letter: The SEC is retaliating against Mr Musk and Tesla without answering to the constraints of principle or law in so doing."

Mr Spiro said that in a separate letter, he has requested specific SEC staff to "preserve their records and devices" and has reported the matter to the SEC Office of Inspector General.

Press officials for the SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the filing, which came on a federal holiday. Tesla closed on Friday at US$856.98 in New York trading.

Mr Musk has also claimed that the SEC failed to pay Tesla shareholders US$40 million (S$53.8 million) the agency collected in the 2018 settlements over his tweets. The SEC said it has taken time to develop a plan given the complexity of the distribution, and it plans to submit one to the judge by the end of March.

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