The Securities and Exchange Commission sued Tesla chief executive Elon Musk on Thursday and is seeking to ban him from leading any public company, saying he lied to investors when he claimed on Twitter that he had secured the funding to take the automaker private.
The legal action could prove devastating for Musk, one of the nation’s most prominent tech visionaries and a brash icon of entrepreneurialism who made Tesla into one of America’s most valuable car companies. It could also threaten financial peril for the automaker as well as Musk’s other business interests in space travel, artificial intelligence and hypersonic trains.
Of all the celebrity chiefs to emerge from Silicon Valley, Musk was one of the most revered by a tech culture that prides itself on rule-breaking and risky ventures. But he was also a polarizing force who flaunted his status as a renegade executive and had no qualms attacking enemies or casually smoking marijuana on a viral video even as the SEC was intensifying its probe.
Musk said in a statement Thursday, “This unjustified action by the SEC leaves me deeply saddened and disappointed. 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.”
Tesla and its board issued a joint statement late Thursday saying they “are fully confident in Elon, his integrity, and his leadership of the company, which has resulted in the most successful US auto company in over a century.”