The solar power and electric vehicle manufacturer is facing a criminal probe by the Department of Justice, federal officials told Bloomberg, over Musk's public proclamation on Twitter on August 7 that he had the "funding secured" to take Tesla private at $420.
Shares of Tesla, which trade on the Nasdaq exchange under the ticker symbol TSLA, dropped 3.5 percent Tuesday, to around $285. Unsworth's comment prompted a series of tweets by Musk, including on July 15 when he said, "Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it".
Musk has also been criticised for other unorthodox behaviour, including appearing on a podcast smoking marijuana and giving a tell-all interview to The New York Times in which he admitted to feeling overwhelmed and unable to sleep over Tesla's ambitious electric auto production targets. Justice Department probes, like the civil inquiries undertaken by the SEC, can take months.
A few days after announcing that he is thinking of taking Tesla private, Elon Musk published a blog post stating that the "funding secured" tweet came from talks he has had with Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, which took a 5% stake in Tesla earlier this year.
Last August, Musk tweeted that Unsworth was a "pedo guy." According to Bloomberg, the "criminal probe" is in its early stages in the USA attorney's office in the Northern District of California.
Justice Department investigations are less common, and potentially more serious, because they entail possible criminal charges.
There could also be further investigation into the circumstances of Tesla's Chief Accounting Officer Dave Morton quickly resigning after less than a month on the job, according to reports.
The lawsuit says that with the tweet, Musk sought to tell the average reader that Unsworth's failure to sue at the time was evidence that he was a paedophile.
Currently, the company has collision work done by third parties, and some Tesla owners, Musk says, have waited weeks or months to get their auto back from traditional bodyshops unfamiliar with Teslas. Tesla said it had not been subpoenaed.
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