Report: Tesla Snared in Justice Department Criminal Probe

The sun shines off the rear deck of a roadster on a Tesla dealer’s lot in the south Denver suburb of Littleton, Colo., April 15, 2018. 
(AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

(CN) – The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a criminal investigation into Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk’s tweet indicating he would take the company private after the stock price reached a certain level, according to a Bloomberg report on Tuesday.

Federal authorities in the Northern District of California are looking at a tweet by Musk in early August in which he said he had lined up the necessary $70 billion to take his company private and would do so once the stock price hit $420. He has since backpedaled on those plans.

Tesla said Tuesday it has cooperated with the Justice Department to date, but stopped short of confirming an investigation.

“Last month, following Elon’s announcement that he was considering taking the company private, Tesla received a voluntary request for documents from the DOJ and has been cooperative in responding to it,” a Tesla spokesman told Courthouse News via email Tuesday. “We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony, or any other formal process.”

The company said it expects the matter will be resolved shortly.

But outrage over the tweet hasn’t gone away, with short sellers filing a lawsuit and the Securities and Exchange Commission launching a civil inquiry into the matter.

The electric carmaker’s stock price plummeted over 20 points on Tuesday as the news hit, giving back gains before closing off 3.5 percent as trading closed.

Investors also have concerns about Musk’s erratic behavior, which include smoking marijuana during a California radio appearance and calling the person in charge of rescuing 12 Thai boys and their soccer coach from a complex cave system a pedophile.

Vernon Unsworth, a cave diver from the United Kingdom, sued Musk on a defamation claim in a Los Angeles federal court Monday.

Tesla has faced enormous pressure from investors and short sellers amid efforts to ramp up production of the Model 3, a mass-market version of its more expensive luxury lines Model S and Model X.

Musk said recently the company met its benchmark of producing 6,000 Model 3s per week, but said it still faces challenges in delivering the cars.

A former employee questioned the production numbers recently, telling the SEC Tesla fudged numbers to make it appear as though it were reaching its production goals when in fact it was falling short.

The Justice Department declined to comment.


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