SEC Gets Serious in Tesla Going-private Probe, Issues Subpoenas: Report

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
sec gets serious in tesla going private probe issues subpoenas report

While the U.S. and now Canada enjoy carrying out international diplomacy via tweet, the business world lays out a few ground rules. If you’re the head of a multi-billion dollar publicly traded company, maybe it’s best to not announce your intention to take the company private — while stating there’s funding on hand to pull it off — in a tweetstorm, especially if there aren’t details to back it up. Dry, boring, but concise media releases or regulatory filings alerting shareholders usually do the trick.

After looking into Tesla’s going-private plan, announced August 7th by CEO Elon Musk over Twitter, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission now wants hard answers. While it might be willing to overlook the tweet (Musk, a prolific tweeter, previously told investors that announcements could happen this way), the SEC wants Musk to back up his “funding secured” claim. What person, persons, or entity made this deal possible?

Maybe a round of subpoenas will clear things up.

According to sources who spoke to Fox Business, the SEC has sent subpoenas to Tesla to find out the validity of Musk’s funding claim. That usually signals the start of a “formal” investigation, reporter Charles Gasparino stated. Because it’s 2018, Tesla fans immediately accused Gasparino of secretly working with short sellers to depress the automaker’s stock.

In blog posts published after his tweets, Musk said he’s had conversations with the Saudis, leading many to think that the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund, which owns a 5 percent stake in the automaker, might be the source of the riches. Other financiers might be interested, Musk suggested.

Given that Musk’s tweets and blog posts serve as an investor’s only information on the matter, the SEC feels they’re being kept in the dark. There’s penalties waiting for companies that don’t make themselves crystal clear in these circumstances.

It’s not entirely the procedural equivalent of the Wild West at Tesla. On Monday night, Musk announced the hiring of Silver Lake Partners and Goldman Sachs as financial advisers, with firms Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Munger, Tolles & Olson serving as legal advisers. Tuesday brought an SEC filing that states the company’s intent to form a special committee to review the plan, once it materializes on paper.

Still, the SEC’s probe looms large over the automaker. Reuters reports Tesla’s board has hired law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to help deal with the SEC investigation.

[Image: Tesla]

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5 of 34 comments
  • Tstag Tstag on Aug 16, 2018

    If Elon does take Tesla private then I fear he’s paying way over the odds for the company. He doesn’t seem at all bothered by the fact that car makers are piling into his space and will start to eat a big chunk of his market share in what is still a niche area of the market. Good luck with that.

    • SCE to AUX SCE to AUX on Aug 16, 2018

      "car makers are piling into his space" "Trickling" is more like it. 1. Mfrs simply don't have the production capacity to match Tesla at this point; it will cost them billions to develop. 2. Mfrs aren't really interested in losing money on EVs. Building a profitable EV - especially in the $35k price range - is exceptionally difficult. 3. Building a few hundred compliance cars every month doesn't make a mfr competitive in the EV space.

  • Bazza Bazza on Aug 16, 2018

    Where's our resident Tesla shill Beancounter to set us all straight?

  • Lou_BC "They are the worst kind of partisan - the kind that loves their team more than they want to know the truth."Ummm...yeah....Kinda like birtherism, 2020 election stolen, vast voter fraud, he can have top secret documents at Mar-lago, he's a savvy business man, and hundreds more.
  • FreedMike This article fails to mention that Toyota is also investing heavily in solid state battery tech - which would solve a lot of inherent EV problems - and plans to deploy it soon. course, Toyota being Toyota, it will use the tech in hybrids first, which is smart - that will give them the chance to iron out the wrinkles, so to speak. But having said that, I’m with Toyota here - I’m not sold on an all EV future happening anytime soon. But clearly the market share for these vehicles has nowhere to go but up; how far up depends mainly on charging availability. And whether Toyota’s competitors are all in is debatable. Plenty of bet-hedging is going on among makers in the North American market.
  • Jeff S I am not against EVs but I completely understand Toyota's position. As for Greenpeace putting Toyota at the bottom of their environmental list is more drama. A good hybrid uses less gas, is cleaner than most other ICE, and is more affordable than most EVs. Prius has proven longevity and low maintenance cost. Having had a hybrid Maverick since April and averaging 40 to 50 mpg in city driving it has been smooth driving and very economical. Ford also has very good hybrids and some of the earlier Escapes are still going strong at 300k miles. The only thing I would have liked in my hybrid Maverick would be a plug in but it didn't come with it. If Toyota made a plug in hybrid compact pickup like the Maverick it would sell well. I would consider an EV in the future but price, battery technology, and infrastructure has to advance and improve. I don't buy a vehicle based on the recommendation of Greenpeace, as a status symbol, or peer pressure. I buy a vehicle on what best needs my needs and that I actually like.
  • Mobes Kind of a weird thing that probably only bothers me, but when you see someone driving a car with ball joints clearly about to fail. I really don't want to be around a car with massive negative camber that's not intentional.
  • Jeff S How reliable are Audi? Seems the Mazda, CRV, and Rav4 in the higher trim would not only be a better value but would be more reliable in the long term. Interior wise and the overall package the Mazda would be the best choice.