Elon Musk's Tesla has moved to replace Cooley LLP attorneys or hire other lawyers on several cases since December after the law firm would not fire a lawyer that previously worked at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on an investigation of Musk, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday.
The Cooley attorney, which Tesla wanted fired, had interviewed Musk in the SEC's investigation of the Tesla CEO's 2018 claim that he had obtained funding to take Tesla private, The Journal said. The investigation led to a settlement between the SEC, Musk and Tesla that called for the CEO and electric vehicle company to each pay a $20 million fine and for Musk to temporarily step down as CEO.
A Tesla lawyer late last year asked Cooley to fire the former SEC attorney, The Journal reported, but the law firm would not terminate the lawyer.
Musk's Space X rocket company also no longer works with Cooley on regulatory issues, a person familiar with the matter told The Journal.
The SEC is not the only regulator that has recently challenged Tesla. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in December launched an investigation into 580,000 Tesla Models 3,S,X and Y from 2017-2022 regarding front touchscreens that enable games to be played while driving.
Last August, the agency launched a formal probe into Tesla's Autopilot automated driving system. The agency said it had identified 11 crashes since January 2018, which included one fatality and 17 injuries. The investigation covered about 765,000 vehicles, including Tesla's Models Y,X,S and 3 from 2014 to 2021. The investigation is still pending.