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Elon Musk Faces SEC Questions Regarding Twitter Stake Disclosure - Letter

The SEC is seeking answers from the billionaire Tesla CEO as to why the original filing of his stake in Twitter was made ten days after its deadline.

Updated at 9:40 am EST

Elon Musk was questioned by the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission over the original filing of his ownership stake in Twitter  (TWTR) - Get Twitter Inc. Report, a letter from the agency indicated Friday. 

In a letter dated April 4, the same day Musk filed papers indicated a "passive" 9.2% stake in the micro-blogging website, the SEC's Nicholas Panos posed four questions to the Tesla CEO, seeking information as to why the disclosure was not made within the required period.

Musk has amassed at least 5% of his stake by March 14, which should have compelled him to file a so-called 13-G statement with the SEC by March 24. 

Within hours of Musk's original 13-G filing, typically used by investors who have no stated intention of exerting influence, or control, on the company in which they are invested, the billionaire Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Tesla Inc. Report CEO began to exert influence.

He published a Twitter poll to his 80.4 million followers, asking their opinion on an age-old debate among users of the website: do you want an edit button.

Evidence of that influence was nearly immediate: CEO Parag Agrawal, who only recently took over from departing founder Jack Dorsey, urged users to "vote carefully". "The consequences of this poll will be important."

Less that a day after that, Musk revealed what seemed to be a broader intention to exert control, agreeing to a seat on the Twitter board for two years while at the same time acknowledging the opportunity to increase his holding to 14.9%.

Panos said Musk needs to address, among other things, recent public statements on the Twitter platform regarding his intentions for the group and its internal metrics.

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Twitter shares were marked 0.33% higher in early trading following the release of the SEC letter to change hands at $39.65 each. Tesla shares, meanwhile, were marked 4.15% higher at $737.11 each.

Earlier this week, a group of Twitter shareholders filed a class-action suit against Musk, alleging the billionaire manipulated shares in the group lower in order to buy shares privately after amassing a 5% stake by March 14 - which should have been made public. 

He continued to buy stock after that date, the suit alleges, saving himself $156 million 

Musk's use of Twitter has also drawn the ire of the SEC in the past, as well, most famously in 2018 when the agency charged him with securities fraud related to a Tweet that he had 'funding secured" to take the Tesla private.

Musk maintains that was true, but agreed to pay two $20 million fines, and have his Tweets vetted, in order to placate the SEC's objections.

The following year, however, he Tweeted (again) that Tesla would produce around 500,000 cars in 2019, but backtracked on the remarks a few hours later (but not before the stock rose sharply in response.

Another Musk Tweet, this time in the fall of last year, sent Tesla shares in the other direction after he asked his Twitter followers if he should sell "10% of my Tesla stock" in order to create a tax liability.

Tesla told investors in a subsequent 10-K filing that the SEC had "issued a subpoena to us seeking information on our governance processes around compliance" with the 2018 settlement.