Elon Musk reaches settlement in SEC tweet battle

 Elon Musk exits federal court on April 4, 2019 in New York City.
Enlarge / Elon Musk exits federal court on April 4, 2019 in New York City.

Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Elon Musk has reached a deal with the Securities and Exchange Commission, two parties said in a legal filing on Friday. The new agreement provides much more detailed guidance about when tweets and other public statements are approved by Tesla lawyers.

Musk's original deal with the SEC was announced last September. It required Musk to obtain pre-approval for tweets that "contain or could contain" information that's material ̵[ads1]1; legal jargon for information that's significant to shareholders. While the SEC expected to clear clearing tweets regularly, Musk interpreted this language as giving him significant discretion to decide for himself which tweets contained material information. The result was not legal review for any tweets in the first few months the agreement was in effect.

In February, Musk tweeted that Tesla "will make around 500k in 2019." Hours later, he followed up with a clarifying tweet, stating that he "meant to say annualized production rate at end of 2019 probably around 500k." Musk didn't get this tweet cleared by Tesla lawyers. The SEC viewed as a violation of the agreement and asked Judge Nathan to hold Musk in contempt

But rather than immediately punishing Musk, Nathan earlier this month Now, Musk and the SEC have submitted a revision of last September's settlement which is a lot more specific about which statements require review by Tesla's lawyers.

Under the new rules, other communications) regarding Tesla's finances, its production and delivery numbers, new lines of business, sales projections, proposed mergers, fundraising efforts, regulatory decisions, and several other types of information. These new terms, the SEC will drop its request for Musk to be kept in contempt. In other words, the SEC seems to be satisfied with getting musk to start seeking legal review for his tweet the way the agency thought Musk had been doing since last hour. The SEC is not seeking any further details for its February tweet.

But it's an open question whether or not Musk will be more cooperative now than he was in the wake of the original deal. approval for production and delivery numbers – or projections about future numbers – unless those numbers were previously published via pre-approved written communications. Yet Musk had argued that when he predicted the production of 500k vehicles, he did not need to get legal review because he was merely summarizing guidance previously published by the company (the SEC disagreed, arguing that the 500k number was inconsistent with Tesla's guidance) . So it's not hard to imagine Musk continuing to tweet out estimates without legal review, arguing that they're close enough to Tesla's official guidance that he doesn't need a lawyer's approval.

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