Musk can't tweet about Tesla without lawyer approval – and he's still fighting to end that
By free speech, he means freedom to flip the bird at the SEC
Elon Musk still hopes to quash a 2018 settlement agreement with the SEC requiring Tesla-related tweets to be approved by a lawyer before he can post them: on Wednesday, he took his case to the US Court of Appeals after a lower court denied this request.
The Tesla CEO landed himself in hot water with the watchdog when he tweeted he was thinking of taking the company private at $420 a share, and claimed to have already secured the necessary funding (sound familiar?) In reality, however, Musk did not have the funding or approval to do so. Investors, however, took him seriously and they started buying more shares, bumping up the stock price over 10 per cent.
The SEC accused Musk of fraud, saying his tweets were false and misled the public and caused disruption in the market. Musk was sued by the US regulator; he later settled the lawsuit by agreeing to pay $40 million in penalties, step down as chairman of the automaker's board, and accepted that any tweets discussing Tesla would have to be screened from now on.
But now he wants to terminate that last part of the agreement. Musk's legal team argued the SEC lacks the legal authority to control his free speech, and that it's unfair for the watchdog to permit "roving and unbounded investigations" into Musk's activities whilst he is restrained from tweeting freely.
This was put to a federal judge in New York, who in April denied his request. "Musk was not forced to enter into the consent decree; rather, 'for [his] own strategic purposes, [Musk], with the advice and assistance of counsel, entered into these agreements voluntarily, in order to secure the benefits thereof, including finality,'" district court judge Lewis Liman declared [PDF].
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"Musk cannot now seek to retract the agreement he knowingly and willingly entered by simply bemoaning that he felt like he had to agree to it at the time but now—once the specter of the litigation is a distant memory and his company has become, in his estimation, all but invincible — wishes that he had not," the judge added.
Now, Musk's lawyers are attempting to overturn that decision by taking the case to the Court of Appeals, filing their intention to do so today. It's unclear how the case will move forward.
We're reminded that Musk, who is reportedly going to take questions from Twitter workers on Thursday, loves to talk about free speech, or rather his definition of it, on and regarding the social network. He would like nothing more than to free himself of the commitment he made to the SEC on tweeting.
The Register has asked the SEC for comment. ®