Tesla receives subpoena from SEC over 2018 settlement

Feb 7 (Reuters) – Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said on Monday it received a subpoena from the US securities regulator in November related to the SEC settlement that required top boss Elon Musk’s tweets on material information to be vetted.

The disclosure in an annual filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission comes after Musk triggered a stock sell-off after asking his Twitter followers in November if he should sell 10% of his stake in the company.

As of last close, the electric-car maker’s shares fell by nearly a quarter since the tweet.

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The SEC’s latest action adds to the company’s pressure from federal auto safety regulators regarding vehicle recalls and investigations related to its driver assisting software.

Tesla in December was hit by a lawsuit over Musk’s social media posts including his Twitter poll on stock sales that pulled down its stock prices. This was not the first lawsuit accusing Musk of violating his 2018 settlement.

In 2018, Musk settled a lawsuit by the SEC over his tweet on taking the company private, agreeing to have the company’s lawyers pre-approve tweets with material information about the company.

As part of the same settlement, Musk also stepped down as chairman of the board, Tesla appointed two new independent directors and both parties paid $20 million penalty each.

Tesla and the White House have been at odds over the past few months, with the Biden administration focusing on legacy automakers including Ford Motor Co (FN) and General Motors (GM.N) in the electric vehicle race.

Last month, GM and Ford’s CEOs attended a meeting of tech and auto companies hosted by US President Joe Biden, however Musk was not part of the list of attendees.

Musk has been using his Twitter account to attack the Biden administration for ignoring Tesla, and holding up Detroit automakers as leaders in the shift to electric vehicles. Musk called Biden a “damp sock puppet” in a tweet last month.

Musk is also feuding with the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, a key ally of Biden. The National Labor Relations board in March ordered Musk delete a tweet that said Tesla workers could lose stock options if they voted to join the UAW. Tesla is appealing that order.

BITCOIN HOLDINGS WORTH $2 BLN

Tesla said on Monday the fair market value of the electric-vehicle maker’s bitcoin holdings as of Dec. 31 was $1.99 billion.

The company, which had invested $1.50 billion in bitcoin last year, said it registered about $101 million in impairment losses last year due to the value of bitcoin.

A drop in the value of bitcoin resulted in the company recording losses, as the value of its holdings fell.

Tesla had also briefly accepted the cryptocurrency as payment for sales of certain products. However, Musk stopped accepting the digital currency, citing environmental concerns around the mining of bitcoin.

The company said it gained $128 million after selling a portion of its holdings in March. Tesla has not disclosed any change to its bitcoin holdings since.

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Reporting by Subrat Patnaik and Akash Sriram in Bengaluru and Joseph White in Detroit; Editing by Shounak Dasgupta

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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