US SEC sues Elon Musk to compel him to appear in court

6 Oct 2023

Elon Musk. Image: Daniel Oberhaus (CC BY 2.0)

According to the US agency, Musk has offered a ‘blanket refusal’ to testify in an investigation of potential violations of US laws during his purchase of Twitter.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a subpoena enforcement action against Elon Musk to force him to testify in an investigation of his Twitter takeover last year.

In a California federal court filing yesterday (5 October), the SEC said that Musk failed to comply with a subpoena calling for his appearance for testimony as part of an ongoing investigation around potential violations of US laws when he acquired the company now called X.

The SEC said that the investigation relates to potential violations of various provisions of the federal securities laws in connection with both his $44bn purchase of Twitter last year as well as statements made by Musk and SEC filings made at the time.

According to the filing, the SEC seeks Musk’s testimony to obtain information “not already in the SEC’s possession” that is relevant to its “legitimate and lawful” investigation.

While the investigation has not concluded that any laws were broken, the SEC claims Musk failed to appear for testimony as required by the investigative subpoena despite both parties agreeing on a date last month and having had time since May to prepare for the appearance.

The SEC also claims that Musk and his lawyers raised no objection to the subpoena from May until “two days before his scheduled testimony date” last month, when Musk notified the SEC that he would not appear.

“Musk attempted to justify his refusal to comply with the subpoena by raising, for the first time, several spurious objections, including an objection to San Francisco as an appropriate testimony location,” the SEC wrote in its filing.

While “good faith” efforts were made by the SEC staff to find an alternative date, the agency claims, their efforts were met with Musk’s “blanket refusal” to appear for testimony.

Musk has been having scuffles with the SEC for years now. Things were awry between the two when the agency objected to statements he made while trying to take his electric car company Tesla private, leading to his ousting as Tesla chair and a $20m penalty on charges on fraud.

Earlier this week, it was reported that X, formerly Twitter, is no longer showing headlines on articles shared on the platform, but only showing the lead image, in an effort to “greatly improve the [a]esthetics”, according to Musk.

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Elon Musk. Image: Daniel Oberhaus (CC BY 2.0)

Vish Gain is a journalist with Silicon Republic