Tesla hires SEC lawyer, former fed prosecutor as managing counsel

The logo marks the showroom and service center for the US automotive and energy company Tesla in Amsterdam on October 23, 2019.

John Thys | AFP | Getty Images

Tesla has hired David Misler as a new managing counsel, according to his LinkedIn profile. Misler is a former trial attorney for the Securities and Exchange Commission and previously worked for the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tesla has repeatedly had run-ins with the SEC, most notably over statements made by CEO Elon Musk on his Twitter account where he has amassed tens of millions of followers.

In 2018, the SEC charged Musk and Tesla with securities fraud after the CEO tweeted that he was considering taking the company private at $420 per share and had funding secured in 2018. Musk later rescinded that stated plan, and Tesla and Musk settled with the regulators, paying a $20 million fine each, and signing an agreement that required the CEO to temporarily relinquish his role as chairman of the board and to have his tweets reviewed by an attorney before posting.

The original agreement was amended in 2019 when Musk continued tweeting spontaneously. The feds filed a motion to hold him in contempt, and a judge asked both parties to put on their “reasonableness pants,” and clarify what exact types of Musk’s tweets required an attorney’s review.

In June of this year, the Wall Street Journal reported the SEC had subsequently accused Musk of violating the amended agreement with tweets that said Tesla’s stock price was too high, and that discussed solar rooftop production numbers.

Legal transparency site Plainsite also published records in June revealing that the SEC had subpoenaed Elon Musk, his former chief of staff Sam Teller, his personal wealth manager Jared Birchall, his personal office Excession LLC, and the Elon Musk Revocable Trust in an unspecified and perhaps unrelated investigation.

According to Tesla’s most recent quarterly filing, the company regularly responds to requests for “information from regulators and governmental authorities,” including the SEC and DOJ.

Tesla cautioned investors in that filing, “Should the government decide to pursue an enforcement action, there exists the possibility of a material adverse impact on our business, results of operation, prospects, cash flows and financial position.”

In a LinkedIn post announcing his move back to the private sector in late October, Misler wrote:

“Almost nine years ago, I joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington, D.C. where I took an oath that I would faithfully represent the United States as its counsel. My federal service ended this past Friday after two years in the Securities and Exchange Commission’s trial unit.” He thanked his colleagues and continued, “Today, a new journey begins. I start at Tesla as a managing counsel for litigation where I will support our important mission of accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy.”

Misler and Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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