Tesla and its CEO Elon Musk on Thursday accused the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of improperly targeting them with an "unrelenting" investigation to punish Musk for being an outspoken critic of the government.
The accusation came in a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan in Manhattan, who presided over a 2018 SEC settlement stemming from Musk's tweet that he had secured funding to potentially take his electric car company private.
Tesla on Feb. 7 disclosed receiving a subpoena from the SEC about its compliance with that settlement, that required Musk to obtain advance approval for some tweets.
In the letter, Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Musk and Tesla, also accused the SEC of ignoring its commitment to distribute to shareholders the $40 million of fines that his clients agreed to pay in the 2018 settlement.
"Worst of all, the SEC seems to be targeting Mr. Musk and Tesla for unrelenting investigation largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government; the SEC's outsized efforts seem calculated to chill his exercise of First Amendment rights," Spiro wrote. "Enough is enough."
The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Meanwhile, Musk waded further into political controversy over vaccine mandates that have gripped Canada for weeks, tweeting a meme making a satirical comparison between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Adolf Hitler.
Musk was replying to a post by cryptocurrency trade publication CoinDesk about Trudeau's emergency orders aimed at cutting off funds to protesters who have blocked border crossings and camped out in Canada's capital since late January. Musk tweeted a photo of Hitler with the text "Stop comparing me to Justin Trudeau" at the top, and "I had a budget" at the bottom.
Musk, 50, voiced admiration for Canadian truckers early on in the protests. He's suggested that the Canadian government is suppressing peaceful demonstrations and lacks public support. On Jan. 30, he tweeted a meme making fun of people who invoke Hitler when discussing politics.
Musk was born to a Canadian mother and South African father and moved to Canada as a teen before enrolling at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He moved to the U.S. to study at the University of Pennsylvania.
Reuters contributed to this report.