Reports about Elon Musk or Tesla being investigated in one way or another are anything but rare and this latest review by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) only adds pressure to the American EV maker.
According to Automotive News, which quotes sources that spoke to Bloomberg, the SEC is investigating Elon Musk’s role in shaping Tesla’s self-driving claims, to find out whether or not the CEO’s forward-looking statements about Autopilot may have been inappropriately made, leading to an increase in desirability for the company’s models even though the features he described were far from ready for deployment.
On its official website, the SEC’s mission is described as being “to protect investors; maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitate capital formation. The SEC strives to promote a market environment that is worthy of the public's trust.” To this effect, the agency can investigate companies that are listed on the stock exchange, but its efforts don’t always lead to consequences. However, its conclusions can result in lawsuits, fines, or other penalties for companies and executives.
Automotive News notes that this latest review from the SEC is part of an ongoing probe of Tesla’s statements about its Autopilot driver-assistance system, but it’s not clear which of Musk’s statements or activities caught the attention of the agency this time. Tesla’s CEO has previously clashed with the SEC on several occasions and one time he quoted an Eminem song in a legal battle to revoke a consent decree, saying that "The (SEC) won't let me be or let me be me so let me see; They tried to shut me down."
Looking further into Tesla’s current legal troubles, it’s worth noting that the American EV maker is facing scrutiny over a number of Autopilot-related accidents and is poised for its first jury trial soon. The US Justice Department has also been looking into whether the company’s comments about its self-driving features have been misleading and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has two active investigations into the way Autopilot handles crash scenes and its sudden braking behaviour.