Tesla Told Law Firm to Fire Attorney Involved in SEC Musk Probe: WSJ

  • Tesla told law firm Cooley LLP last year to fire an attorney involved in the SEC’s Elon Musk probe or lose the car maker’s business, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • The attorney had interviewed Musk as part of the probe into his 2018 tweet about having funding to take Tesla private.
  • Cooley refused, and Tesla started acting to replace the firm or add other counsel, per WSJ.

Tesla threatened to withhold business from a law firm if it didn’t fire an attorney involved in an SEC probe of CEO Elon Musk, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, citing people familiar with the matter.

A lawyer for Tesla told the law firm, Cooley LLP, late last year to terminate the attorney, who had been brought onboard for their experience with securities litigation and enforcement, according to the Journal. The attorney didn’t have a hand in Cooley’s work for Tesla, but had interviewed Musk during the SEC’s investigation into his 2018 tweet saying he had obtained funding to take the company private.

Musk ultimately reached a settlement with the agency that required him and Tesla to each pay a $20 million fine. The settlement also required Musk to step down as Tesla’s chairman of the board for three years.

The Cooley attorney wasn’t fired and is still an associate there, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the situation.

But Tesla has replaced Cooley as counsel, or hired additional counsel, in several cases since December, according to the Journal, which cited legal documents.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, which Musk also runs, stopped enlisting Cooley for regulatory work, people familiar with the matter told the Journal.

Tesla, SpaceX, and Musk didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Read the full Wall Street Journal article here.

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