Billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk is under investigation by United States federal authorities for his handling of a $44bn deal to take over Twitter Inc, the social media company has said in a court filing.
Twitter Inc’s court filing, which was released on Thursday, said that Musk was under investigation, but it did not say what the exact focus of the investigation was and which federal authorities were involved.
Twitter, which sued Musk in July to force him to complete the $44bn deal to buy the social media company, said that lawyers for the Tesla Inc CEO had claimed “investigative privilege” in their refusal to hand over documents the company had sought as part of their legal case.
Twitter said that in late September, Musk’s attorneys had provided a “privilege log” identifying documents that would be withheld. That log referenced drafts of a May 13 email to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and a slide presentation to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
The court filing, which asked Delaware judge Kathaleen McCormick to order Musk’s attorneys to provide the withheld documents, was made on October 6 — the same day that McCormick paused litigation between the two sides after Musk reversed course and said he would proceed with the deal to buy Twitter.
McCormick has given Musk until October 28 to close the acquisition. If the deal does not get done by then, a trial date will be set for November.
“This game of ‘hide the ball’ must end,” Twitter said in the court filing.
Alex Spiro, a lawyer for Musk, told the Reuters news agency that Twitter’s court filing was a “misdirection” and countered: “It is Twitter’s executives that are under federal investigation.”
Twitter declined to comment on Spiro’s statement and also declined comment when asked by Reuters about its understanding of any investigation into Musk. The SEC did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the FTC declined to comment.
The SEC has questioned Musk’s comments about the Twitter acquisition, including whether a 9 percent stake that he had built up before announcing his bid had been disclosed late and why it indicated that he intended to be a passive shareholder.
Musk later refiled the disclosure to indicate he was an active investor. In June, the SEC asked Musk in a letter whether he should have amended his public filing to reflect his intention to suspend or abandon the deal.
Tech news site The Information reported in April that the FTC was scrutinising whether Musk failed to comply with antitrust reporting requirements relating to an investor’s intentions of being a passive or active shareholder.
Twitter said in June, however, that the takeover deal with Musk had cleared an antitrust waiting period for review by the FTC and US Justice Department.
On Wednesday, Musk said that he had launched a new fragrance called “Burnt Hair” to raise funds for his Twitter acquisition, and had sold $1 million worth of the perfume within days of its launch.
“Please buy my perfume, so I can buy Twitter,” he wrote on the platform where he has almost 109 million followers. He claimed to have sold 20,000 bottles of the scent.
“With a name like mine, getting into the fragrance business was inevitable — why did I even fight it for so long!?” he wrote.
Musk’s Twitter bio now describes him as a “Perfume Salesman” and a link to the product’s sales page features a ruby red bottle with the tagline, “The Essence of Repugnant Desire.”
Each bottle retails for $100 and shipping is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2023.