Last week, Elon Musk announced on Twitter that he would be hiring a “hardcore litigation department” for Tesla. He put out the signal for “streetfighters” who would “directly initiate & execute lawsuits” to send their details to Tesla, but he offered zero explanation as to why Tesla would need such an aggressive legal team. Now, Bloomberg has shed some light on the situation: The carmaker is likely lawyering up in preparation for a battle with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over ongoing investigations into Tesla’s Autopilot claims and failures.
Initially, the timing of the tweet led many to believe that Elon was seeking to hire attorneys to defend him personally, in response sexual harassment allegations against him reported by a flight attendant. But, despite Musk’s assurance that this new legal team would report directly to him, the department is specified as being part of Tesla — not SpaceX, where Musk’s alleged sexual harassment occurred. Bloomberg dives into the possibilities, noting that Musk’s tweets seeking to recruit a “hardcore litigation department” came just hours before the debut of Elon Musk’s Crash Course, a documentary series produced by The New York Times that deeply examines Musk’s overpromises around Autopilot, and the real-world failures of that technology.
As Bloomberg points out, “The documentary notes in its closing credits that the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has opened two defect investigations into Tesla’s driver-assistance system Autopilot.”
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NHTSA isn’t the only regulatory agency paying newfound attention to the Texas-based automaker. The Securities and Exchange Commission has active investigations into Elon and his brother Kimball Musk for possible insider-trading violations, and both state and federal agencies have begun looking into allegations of “rampant racism” at Tesla.
That’s a whole bunch of potential legal issues for Tesla’s “hardcore streetfighter” lawyers, recruited via Twitter, to tackle. No doubt, if Musk is able to assemble such a legal team, we’ll hear all about their travails — where else? — on Twitter.