SEC probes Tesla over Model 3 production disclosures

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Fox News legal analyst Mercedes Colwin on the SEC investigation into Tesla CEO Elon Musk's tweet about potentially taking the company private.

Securities regulators last year subpoenaed a parts supplier for Tesla Inc. as they looked at whether the auto maker misled investors about Model 3 car production problems, indicating the company was under investigation before Elon Musk tweeted he might take the company private, according to a person familiar with the matter.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission's probe of Tesla's disclosures about Model 3 production preceded its latest demand for information related to Mr. Musk's tweets, the person said. Regulators have also subpoenaed Tesla's directors seeking to learn what they knew about Mr. Musk's plan to take Tesla private, according to another person familiar with the matter.

Both issues are being handled by the SEC's San Francisco office, one of the people said.

The Wall Street Journal reported in October that the Tesla assembly plant's body shop wasn't fully installed until around September and that major portions of the Model 3 were being hand built weeks after Mr. Musk announced production had begun in July 2017. As production started, he claimed about 1,600 cars would be made in the third quarter of 2017 before reaching 20,000 in December. Those forecasts were far below what he predicted roughly a year earlier, when he said as many 200,000 Model 3s would be made in the second half of 2017.

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​Instead, Tesla made 2,700 Model 3s during 2017. The sedan, priced to start at $35,000, is designed to propel the luxury electric-car maker into the mainstream.

Under U.S. securities law, Tesla and its executives could face sanctions if regulators determine they misled investors about the cause or extent of production delays. SEC probes can last months or even years, and sometimes end without the regulator charging a target with wrongdoing.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

Tesla didn't respond to a request for comment.

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