As the richest man in the world and a fan of controversy and public spectacle, Elon Musk is never far from the headlines. But this week, it seemed like he was in all of them.
There was, of course, billionaire Tesla’s successful negotiation of a deal to buy Twitter for $44 billion. But there have also been a slew of lawsuits and legal proceedings featuring Musk as a main or minor character, from regulatory scrapes to shareholder wrangling to the aftermath of a Hollywood couple’s divorce.
Having trouble keeping everything in order? Here’s a look at Musk’s latest legal entanglements.
Disclosure delayed on Twitter
While Musk’s plan to make Twitter private doesn’t raise typical antitrust concerns over ownership concentration, it’s already under scrutiny from regulators due to antitrust law.
The Federal Trade Commission has opened an investigation into whether Musk complied with an antitrust reporting requirement while amassing his Twitter stake between late January and early April, the news reported. Musk classified his stock purchase as passive equity, indicating he would not try to influence the company.
The investigation will examine whether Musk considered himself a passive shareholder in the initial purchase, or whether he intended to influence Twitter’s management, according to the Information.
Musk also filed notice with the Securities and Exchange Commission several days late in disclosing his 9.2% stake, which is required when an investor buys more than 5% of a company’s stock. .
On the Heard vs. Depp witness list
Musk is no stranger to high-profile defamation lawsuits: in 2019, he successfully defended himself after publicly suggesting that a British cave diver who criticized him was a paedophile.
But this week it was Musk’s ex-girlfriend, actress Amber Heard, who was charged with defamation by her ex-husband, Johnny Depp, in a $50 million lawsuit. Musk’s name was on the witness list.
Depp sued Heard for writing an op-ed in The Washington Post referring to herself as a “public figure representing domestic violence.” The piece didn’t refer to Depp by name, but the actor claimed it clearly referred to their relationship and ruined his reputation as a result.
Musk, 50, dated Heard for a year after her relationship with Depp ended in 2016.
Musk will not testify at trial, his attorney told the New York Post on Wednesday. But Heard’s talent agent, Christian Carino, testified to an exchange of text messages in which he told Heard: “You weren’t in love with him and you told me a thousand times that you were just fill in the space,” and she replied, “I know.”
Justified in the SolarCity costume
A judge ruled in favor of Musk on Wednesday in a $13 billion lawsuit involving Tesla’s acquisition of SolarCity, a struggling rooftop solar panel maker with which it had close financial and business ties.
Tesla shareholders have accused Musk of coercing the board into making the purchase – a $2.6 billion all-stock deal – as a ‘bailout’ for the solar company, their attorney has said. . Musk was the chairman and largest shareholder of SolarCity, and his cousins, Lyndon and Peter Rive, founded the company in 2006.
Musk said the deal was part of a “master plan” to transform sustainable energy production.
Although he chastised Musk for getting involved despite his conflict of interest, Vice Chancellor Joseph Slights of the Delaware Court of Chancery ultimately ruled in his favor.
In its ruling, Slights said Tesla paid a “fair price” for SolarCity and that the acquisition was “very beneficial” to Tesla. The company’s shareholders can still appeal the decision.
The tweet that endures in the trials
A 2018 settlement with the SEC over a tweet by Musk claiming he had “secured funding” to take Tesla private at $420 a share has been a thorn in his side ever since.
This week, Musk failed in his bid to get out of that settlement, which, among other things, requires him to get some of his tweets pre-approved by lawyers.
The “Funding Secured” tweet sent Tesla shares soaring, but Musk later revealed in a blog post that there was no concrete funding in place and he was still talking to investors. This led to a securities fraud charge and settlement, under which Musk and Tesla each paid $20 million and Musk gave up his three-year Tesla presidency, along with the mandatory “Twitter sitter.” .
After Musk tweeted about the potential sale of much of his Tesla holdings last November without getting approval, the SEC served him with a subpoena for violating the settlement agreement. He is also being investigated for potential insider trading over the tweet, as his brother Kimbal Musk sold $108 million worth of his shares a day before posting it. Tesla’s stock fell sharply after the tweet.
Musk accused the SEC in February of a harassment campaign that restricted his right to free speech and filed a motion to end the settlement.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Liman denied the motion on Wednesday, calling Musk’s argument “baseless” and “particularly ironic” because Musk should have known he was waiving his 1st Amendment rights when concluding. of the agreement.
Meanwhile, Musk also faces a lawsuit in May in a lawsuit brought by Tesla shareholders over the “funding secured” tweet.
Playing the defense against discrimination
Amidst all of this, Tesla has been the subject of parallel racial discrimination investigations by the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing as well as the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. .
California’s civil rights agency filed a lawsuit against the company in early February on behalf of thousands of black workers after a decade of complaints and a 32-month investigation. The lawsuit alleged that employees endured co-workers using the N-word and other racial slurs daily at the Tesla factory in Fremont, California. He also alleged that black workers were denied promotions, paid less than other workers for the same jobs and faced retaliation for complaining of racist treatment.
Last week, Tesla said in a legal filing that the EEOC opened an investigation into the electric vehicle company before the state agency did so in 2019. The company asked a judge to block the lawsuit of the state, accusing the DFEH of filing it to advance its “turf war” with the federal agency.
At least 160 worker lawsuits have been filed against Tesla since 2006, according to Plainsite, a court documents transparency organization.