Elon Musk mocks SEC as judge demands they justify fraud settlement

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Tesla shares declined 2 per cent in extended trading after Musk's tweet.

Elon Musk's Twitter account on Thursday appeared to mock the Securities and Exchange Commission only days after the Tesla Inc. chief executive settled fraud charges, suggesting the agency was enriching investors betting against the electric-car maker.

Some judges have complained about being viewed as rubber stamps for SEC settlements.

Musk derided the SEC as the "Shortseller Enrichment Commission" before snidely praising it for "doing incredible work".

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FILE PHOTO: Tesla Chief Executive Office Elon Musk speaks at his company's factory in Fremont, California, U.S., June 22, 2012. This resulted in a $20 million fine and Musk having to step down as chairman for at least three years.

The SEC alleged that Musk said a representative from Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund had shown interest in taking Tesla private but had never discussed with Musk any of the specific terms he described on Twitter, including a proposed $US420 share price and an option for all existing Tesla shareholders to remain with the company after it went private.

According to the SEC, Tesla must create a committee of independent directors and "put in place additional controls and procedures to oversee Musk's communications".

Nathan "may want to know why Tesla is paying a fine because the CEO doesn't know when to shut up", said Adam Pritchard, a University of MI law professor and former SEC lawyer.

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Among them was Nathan's colleague Jed Rakoff, who had objected to the SEC's decades-old policy of letting some corporate defendants settle without admitting or denying wrongdoing, as Musk did.

On Thursday, the federal judge responsible for green-lighting the settlement asked the SEC and Musk to provide a joint statement explaining why the deal should be approved.

"In and of itself it's not an ominous sign", said Jordan Thomas, a partner at Labaton Sucharow and former SEC lawyer.

The case is SEC v Musk, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 18-08865.

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