Elon Musk's Twitter habit likely is costing him a lot of money in lawyers' fees--and may ultimately cost him far more to settle all his resulting legal battles.
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a federal lawsuit against the Tesla co-founder and CEO on Thursday. The lawsuit alleges Musk misled the public and hurt investors when he tweeted on August 7 that he was planning to take Tesla private and had "funding secured." The SEC is asking the court for unspecified civil penalties and to bar Musk from running any publicly traded company.
"This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed," Musk said in a statement sent to Inc. "I have always taken action in the best interests of truth, transparency, and investors. Integrity is the most important value in my life and the facts will show I never compromised this in any way."
This SEC action is only one of several lawsuits that Musk and Tesla are currently involved in. Here's a recap of the most notable ones. (Tesla declined to comment for this story.)
Earlier this month, Thailand cave rescuer Vernon Unsworth sued Musk for defamation, after the entrepreneur referred to him as "pedo guy" in a since-deleted July 15 tweet. Unsworth is seeking at least $75,000 in compensatory damages, additional punitive damages, and to block Musk from making any false or defamatory statements about him.
2. Violation of federal securities laws
Also in September, Tesla short-seller Andrew Left filed a class-action suit against Tesla and its CEO, alleging Musk's now-infamous "funding secured" tweet cost short-sellers about $1.3 billion. Left's lawsuit calls for a jury trial and asks the court to grant plaintiffs damages and interest, and to make Musk pay their legal fees as well as "equitable/injunctive or other relief." Additional short sellers and other Tesla shareholders also have filed separate lawsuits against Musk and the company over his August 7 tweet.
3. Wrongful termination
In June, Tesla's former safety director, Carlos Ramirez, sued the company, alleging he was fired "in retaliation for reporting unsafe working conditions, such as chemical exposures and fires, and for refusing to go along with what he believed to be illegal practices," according to Reveal, a publication from the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. At the time, Tesla issued a statement saying it fired Ramirez after receiving an "onslaught of complaints" about his behavior.
4. Hacking and trade secret theft by a former employee
In June, Tesla sued former employee Martin Tripp for "unlawfully [hacking] the company's confidential and trade secret information and [transferring] that information to third parties," according to the complaint. Tripp filed a whistle-blower complaint with the SEC in July.
5. Violation of labor laws
In August, the National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Tesla, alleging the company violated U.S. labor laws when Musk tweeted in May that employees who unionized would lose their stock options, Jalopnik reports. The NLRB also alleges that Tesla has allegedly interfered with workers' rights to form a union. Tesla has denied the allegations.
Tesla also is facing several ongoing lawsuits from former employees who allege that a lack of safety procedures led to workplace injuries. Musk and Tesla are facing investigations and complaints from other government agencies as well. In September, the Department of Justice announced it was opening a criminal investigation into Musk's "funding secure" tweet. And the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is looking into Tesla's safety practices in its Freemont factory.