The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) could investigate Elon Musk over Tesla’s $1.5 billion bitcoin purchase, some legal experts have warned, including a former SEC enforcement officer. Given the timing of Tesla’s bitcoin purchase and Musk’s multiple tweets on the subject, some say that the SEC will look into the matter.
Elon Musk Could Face an SEC Probe
Regulators could probe Tesla CEO Elon Musk over his company’s bitcoin purchase, the Telegraph reported Tuesday. Last week, an SEC filing reveals that Tesla bought a substantial amount of bitcoin in January. “We invested an aggregate $1.50 billion in bitcoin … we expect to begin accepting bitcoin as a form of payment for our products in the near future,” the filing reads.
Doug Davison, a partner at Linklaters and a former branch chief of the SEC’s division of enforcement, explained:
It would not be surprising – given the focus on the chief executive’s tweets, bitcoin pricing and recent dramatic market moves – for the SEC to ask questions about the facts and circumstances here.
The Tesla and Spacex CEO has been tweeting about bitcoin and also dogecoin. On Jan. 29, he changed his Twitter profile to just say “#bitcoin” and then tweeted, “In retrospect, it was inevitable.” A few days later, he publicly endorsed bitcoin, stating that the cryptocurrency “is a good thing,” and that “bitcoin is really on the verge of getting broad acceptance by conventional finance people.” His Twitter profile no longer says #bitcoin.
Vitor Constâncio, who served as vice president of the European Central Bank (ECB) until May 2018, explained in a tweet: “It was not disclosed when Tesla had made this investment. In December, Musk said that Tesla could buy bitcoin, and this was followed by many statements that he supported bitcoin.” He added:
Bitcoin kept going up & Tesla investment has appreciated. The SEC will look into this.
Some believe that the SEC will not find anything of concern by investigating Musk. Among them is Thomas Gorman, a partner at the international law firm Dorsey Whitney and a former senior counsel at the SEC. He expects that the SEC staff looking into Musk’s comments on social media would find that they only reflect his personal beliefs.
However, a number of people believe that Musk manipulated the BTC price in order to buy cheap coins. Among those who believe that the SEC has a cause for concern is NYU Stern School professor Nouriel Roubini, aka “Dr. Doom,” who has been a long-term bitcoin skeptic. He called Musk’s action a form of market manipulation, insisting that the SEC should investigate the Tesla CEO.
Musk has gotten into trouble with the SEC before. In 2018, the securities regulator charged the Tesla CEO with securities fraud related to a tweet about his electric car company. Musk and Tesla agreed to settle with the regulator and paid a $40 million fine. However, less than six months later, the SEC charged Musk over a different tweet that the agency claimed violated the previous settlement agreement.
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