Elon Musk, Tesla‘s chief executive, courted dual controversies on Thursday, accusing a US regulator of trying to stifle his speech while drawing condemnation for comparing Canada’s leader to Adolf Hitler.
In a letter to US district judge Alison Nathan, attorneys for Musk, a longtime critic of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accused the agency of propagating “endless unfounded investigations” into the Tesla boss and his company.
“The SEC seems to be targeting Mr Musk and Tesla for unrelenting investigation largely because Mr Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government,” lawyer Alex Spiro said.
Nathan oversaw a 2018 agreement in which Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million to settle SEC charges that Musk defrauded investors with false claims on Twitter about a possible go-private transaction that was quickly aborted.
The settlement also imposed strict rules on Musk’s use of social media, requiring pre-approval from Tesla counsel over statements with key financial information.
The letter to Nathan from Spiro also accused the SEC of dragging its feet in distributing the $40 million to investors, while it has cracked down on Musk’s use of social media.
The letter comes 10 days after Tesla disclosed that it received an SEC subpoena seeking information on the company’s compliance with the 2018 agreement.
Meanwhile, Jewish groups lambasted Musk for a now-deleted tweet he attached to a news story on cryptocurrency transactions that supported protests in Canada against vaccine mandates.
The transactions have been deemed illegal under emergency orders enacted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“Stop comparing me to Justin Trudeau,” said Musk’s tweet, which included a photo of German Nazi leader Hitler. “I had a budget.”
US Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt blasted the statement, calling comparisons to Hitler “inappropriate and offensive”, and saying Musk should delete the statement.
- AFP, with additional editing by George Russell