Tesla Inc and its CEO Elon Musk accused the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday of harassing them with a "endless" and "unrelenting" investigation to punish Musk for being an outspoken critic of the government.
The charge was made in a letter to US District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, who presided over a 2018 SEC settlement stemming from Musk's tweet about a possible Tesla buyout.
"Mr. Musk and Tesla respectfully seek a course correction," wrote Alex Spiro, Musk and Tesla's lawyer. "Enough already." The SEC did not respond to a request for comment. Nathan directed the regulator to respond by Feb. 24 in a one-sentence order.
The letter on Thursday escalates Musk's battle with regulators, who are investigating his social media posts and Tesla's treatment of employees, including allegations of discrimination. It came after Tesla revealed on Feb. 7 that it had received a subpoena from the SEC regarding its compliance with the 2018 settlement.
Musk was sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission in August 2018 after he tweeted that he had "funding secured" to potentially take his electric car company private at $420 per share. In reality, a buyout was not on the horizon. Tesla and Musk reached an agreement in which each agreed to pay $20 million in civil fines and allow Tesla lawyers to pre-screen some of Musk's communications, including tweets that could affect Tesla's stock price. Musk also stepped down as Tesla's chairman. The most recent subpoena was issued on Nov. 16, just 10 days after Musk polled his Twitter followers on whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla stake, sparking a sell-off.