World’s Richest Man Holds World’s Biggest Grudges

Rebecca Elliott, Justin Scheck and Drew FitzGerald at The Wall Street Journal: “A partner at law firm Cooley LLP got an unexpected call late last year from a lawyer for one of the firm’s most famous clients, Elon Musk’s Tesla Inc., with an ultimatum. The world’s richest man wanted Cooley, which was representing Tesla in numerous lawsuits, to fire one of its attorneys or it would lose the electric-vehicle company’s business, people familiar with the matter said.”

“The target of Mr. Musk’s ire was a former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawyer whom Cooley had hired for its securities litigation and enforcement practice and who had no involvement in the firm’s work for Tesla. At the SEC, the attorney had interviewed Mr. Musk during the agency’s investigation of the Tesla chief executive’s 2018 tweet claiming, wrongly, to have secured funding to potentially take the electric-vehicle maker private.”

“The probe resulted in a settlement in which Mr. Musk agreed to resign as chairman and pay a $20 million fine. He also agreed to have a Tesla lawyer review in advance tweets about certain topics, including the company’s financial results, sales numbers and proposed business combinations.”

“Cooley has declined to fire the attorney, who remains an associate at the firm, the people said. Since early December, Tesla has begun taking steps in several cases to replace Cooley or add additional counsel, legal documents show. Mr. Musk’s rocket company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX, has stopped using Cooley for regulatory work, according to people familiar with the matter.”

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