The SEC told Tesla twice that Elon Musk’s tweets violated court orders requiring preapproval from company lawyers

Elon Musk looking at his iPhone .JPG
Tesla CEO Elon Musk looks at his mobile phone.

  • The SEC told Tesla that Elon Musk twice violated court orders regarding his Twitter use, The Wall Street Journal reported.
  • A 2018 settlement between Musk, Tesla, and the SEC required Tesla lawyers to preapprove tweets by Musk about the business.
  • Musk’s tweets about Tesls’s solar roof production and stock price violated that order, the SEC reportedly told the company.
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The Securities and Exchange Commission told Tesla last year that CEO Elon Musk twice violated a court order requiring the company to preapprove his tweets, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

In 2018, Musk and Tesla reached an agreement with the SEC to settle charges that Musk had committed fraud by tweeting that he had secured funding to take Tesla private, when in fact he had not. As part of that settlement, Musk and Tesla each paid $20 million and agreed to have Tesla lawyers review Musk’s social media posts in advance.

But according to The Journal, the SEC wrote to Tesla in 2019 and 2020 to tell the company that two of Musk’s tweets – concerning the company’s solar roof production levels and its stock price – had violated the court order.

Tesla told the agency that the two tweets were “wholly aspirational” and a “personal opinion” expressed by Musk, respectively, and therefore didn’t require pre-approval, according to The Journal.

“In the face of Mr. Musk’s repeated refusals to submit his covered written communications on Twitter to Tesla for pre-approval, we are very concerned by Tesla’s repeated determinations that there have been no policy violations because of purported carve-outs,” the SEC wrote in response, The Journal reported.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

Tesla’s oversight regarding Musk’s tweets has repeatedly drawn the ire of the SEC. The agency accused Tesla as early as February 2019 of violating the court order, that time about Tesla’s promise to build 500,000 cars by the end of the year, leading the court to order the two parties to agree on which topics required pre-approval.

Musk has also sparred with other regulatory agencies that have sought to rein in behavior by the company, including restarting operations at a California warehouse in violation of local pandemic lockdown orders, disputes with the National Transportation Safety Board over a fatal crash involving a Tesla, and avoiding workplace safety regulations in Nevada.

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Lawmakers demand answers in fatal Tesla crash after Elon Musk and executives offer conflicting details

Texas Tesla Crash.
The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed, killing two people, in The Woodlands, Texas, on April 17, 2021.

  • Lawmakers demanded answers Wednesday about a fatal Tesla crash after executives gave conflicting statements.
  • Elon Musk said autopilot wasn’t on, but a top Tesla exec said adaptive cruise control, an autopilot feature, was.
  • Rep. Kevin Brady and Sen. Richard Blumenthal criticized Tesla’s public statements about the crash.
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Lawmakers slammed Tesla’s public response to a deadly crash involving one of its Model S vehicles that killed two men near Houston, Texas, earlier this month following conflicting statements from the company’s executives.

“Despite early claims by #Tesla #ElonMusk, autopilot WAS engaged in tragic crash in The Woodlands. We need answers,” Rep. Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, tweeted Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said he was “disappointed” that Musk weighed in publicly at all, given that two federal agencies still have ongoing investigations into the incident.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

Local authorities said following the crash that neither of the bodies they recovered were in the driver’s seat, prompting questions about whether the vehicle’s “autopilot” system – a suite of AI-powered driver assistance features – was engaged when the vehicle crashed.

Two days after the crash, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that early data obtained from the Model S showed “autopilot was not enabled,” and he doubled down on those claims in Tesla’s earnings call Monday, contradicting local authorities.

But in that same call, Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering Lars Moravy said that the vehicle’s traffic-aware, or adaptive, cruise control – part of the autopilot system, according to Tesla’s Model S owner manual – was engaged during the crash.

“Our adaptive cruise control only engaged when the driver was buckled in above 5 miles per hour. And it only accelerated to 30 miles per hour with the distance before the car crashed,” Moravy said, adding that the feature also “disengaged the car slowly to complete to a stop when the driver’s seatbelt was unbuckled.”

Moravy also pushed back on Texas authorities’ statements that no one was driving the car when it crashed.

“Through further investigation of the vehicle and accident remains, we inspected the car with NTSB and NHTSA and the local police and were able to find that the steering wheel was indeed deformed,” he said, “leading to a likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash and all seatbelts post crash were found to be unbuckled.”

Despite misleading and unverified claims about the autopilot’s capabilities and possible safety advantages, the feature doesn’t make Tesla vehicles fully autonomous. At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

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Bentley recalls one (1) brand-new, $259,000 Flying Spur for potentially defective fuel tank

Bentley Flying Spur W12
Pictured: a Bentley Flying Spur W12.

Sometimes, recalls can affect thousands to millions of cars. Other times, they can affect just one car. This is one of those times.

Bentley is recalling one (1) 2020 Flying Spur W12 over a potentially faulty fuel tank, according to a recall document filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The filing said the long-term durability of the tank “cannot be guaranteed.”

“During the production process at the fuel tank supplier, a welding process of the fuel tank may not have been performed according to specifications,” the document read. “If the plastic weld of the fuel tank fails, this may be perceived initially by an odor of fuel. Leaking fuel, in the presence of an ignition source, can lead to a vehicle fire.”

Thankfully, nothing of the sort happened before Bentley identified the problem and sought to remedy it. The automaker will replace the fuel tank for free.

“The isolated incident and car in question has not shown any signs of fuel leak,” a Bentley spokesperson told Bloomberg in a statement. “The customer has been contacted as per NHTSA regulations.” 

It’s not clear where this particular Flying Spur W12 is located.

The Bentley Flying Spur W12 is a 12-cylinder sedan that produces a claimed 626 horsepower. Bloomberg prices the car at $259,000.

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Tesla asked to recall 158,000 Model S and Model X vehicles over a safety defect involving failing touchscreens

Tesla Model S
  • Tesla was asked by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall around 158,000 vehicles over faulty touchscreens, the agency said in a letter to the company Wednesday.
  • The NHTSA said the media control units on certain Tesla vehicles failed after their memory ran out, causing issues with the backup camera, defogging and defrosting settings, Autopilot system, and turn signals.
  • The issue impacted certain 2012-2018 Model S vehicles and 2016-2018 Model X vehicles, which used the NVIDIA flash memory devices that failed — after just five to six years on average.
  • Vice News first reported on the issue in October 2019, prompting the NHTSA to open an investigation in June 2020.
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The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration sent a letter to Tesla on Wednesday asking the company to recall around 158,000 vehicles over faulty touchscreen hardware.

The agency said it was “investigating a potential safety-related defect concerning incidents of media control unit (“MCU”) failures” that had resulted in problems with the backup camera, defogging and defrosting settings, Autopilot, and turn signals.

The issue, which stemmed from the MCUs failing after exceeding their storage capacity, impacted certain 2012-2018 Model S and 2016-2018 Tesla Model X vehicles.

The touchscreens on those models are powered by an NVIDIA processor which stores data in an attached “flash memory device.” But those devices have a finite amount of storage capacity, and according to the NHTSA’s investigation, once they filled up – which happened after just 5 to 6 years, on average – they shut down, causing the MCUs to fail and creating other safety issues.

The MCU failures resulted in the rearview/backup camera screen going “black,” an inability to control defogging and defrosting settings, and the loss of some Autopilot alerts and turn signal functionality, which the agency said could “increase the risk of crash.”

The NHTSA said its Office of Defects Investigation had “tentatively concluded that the failure of the media control unit (MCU) constitutes a defect related to motor vehicle safety.” While the letter doesn’t formally require Tesla to order a recall, the automaker must submit additional justification if it decides not to, and the NHTSA can still take further action if it isn’t satisfied with Tesla’s response.

Vice News originally reported on the issue in October 2019, citing a Tesla repair expert who said: “When this burns out, you wake up to a black screen [in the car’s center console.] There’s nothing there. No climate control. You can generally drive the car, but it won’t charge.”

The NHTSA said it opened its own investigation on June 22, 2020.

Read more: How Tesla bounced back from worst mistake Elon Musk ever made and became the world’s most valuable car company

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