NEW YORK – Elon Musk asked a federal judge on Thursday not to force him to testify in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s probe into his $44 billion takeover of social media site Twitter.
Mr. Musk filed the objections in San Francisco federal court, where the SEC sued him on Oct. 5 to make him testify for the probe, which it launched in April 2022. The SEC’s subpoena exceeds the agency’s investigative authority, is overly burdensome and seeks “irrelevant evidence”, Mr. Musk’s lawyers said in the filing.
The SEC has said it was investigating Mr. Musk’s 2022 purchases of Twitter stock and his statements and SEC filings relating to Twitter — which Musk subsequently renamed X — and that Musk had refused to attend a September interview for the probe.
Alex Spiro, an attorney for Mr. Musk, has called the investigation “misguided.”
On Thursday, Mr. Spiro and Mr. Musk’s other lawyers said in the filing: “The SEC’s pursuit of Mr. Musk has crossed the line into harassment”.
The SEC did not respond immediately to requests for comment. The agency has previously said it is well within its authority to seek additional testimony from Mr. Musk and that it has received new documents in the investigation since last interviewing him.
On April 4, 2022, Musk disclosed he had acquired a 9.2% stake in Twitter. It was 11 days after the SEC’s deadline for such disclosures. Musk initially said he planned to be a passive stakeholder, meaning he did not plan to take over the company.
Later that month, he announced plans to buy Twitter for $44 billion. He subsequently tried to get out of the deal, alleging Twitter was not disclosing the full extent of bot activity on its platform.
After being sued to complete the deal, Mr. Musk closed his acquisition of Twitter in late October 2022.
Mr. Musk has given the SEC documents relating to the probe and provided testimony in July last year via video conference, the SEC said in a court filing. But SEC attorneys said they have more questions for Mr. Musk after seeing the documents.
The SEC has issued 32 subpoenas in the investigation and has taken testimony from Mr. Musk and at least three other individuals seven times, Mr. Spiro said in a second filing. Mr. Musk alone has received five subpoenas for documents and another three for testimony, he said.
The SEC has spent 18 months “devoting its formidable resources to investigating Mr. Musk over an allegedly untimely filing,” the court filings said. “This is just the latest chapter in a more-than-five-year saga of agency harassment against Mr. Musk and related entities.”
The court battle is the latest flare up in the acrimonious relationship between the US market regulator and Musk, the world’s wealthiest person.
The SEC sued Mr. Musk in 2018 over his posts on social media saying he had “funding secured” to take electric vehicle maker Tesla Inc. private. Mr. Musk settled, but the regulator sued him again in 2019 alleging he had violated the terms of the agreement.
Mr. Musk has meanwhile accused the agency of mounting “endless” investigations into him and Tesla.
He said he will ask the US Supreme Court to review the legality of his SEC settlement, which requires him to vet some of his social media posts with a Tesla lawyer. – Reuters