Elon Musk Switches Lawyers While Facing SEC Contempt Motion

(Bloomberg) -- Elon Musk has turned to former Enron Corp. prosecutor John C. Hueston to fend off the Securities and Exchange Commission’s bid to punish him for allegedly violating a court order that he can’t tweet material information about Tesla Inc. without company approval.

Hueston, of Los Angeles-based Hueston Hennigan LLP, is already defending Musk in a defamation lawsuit by British caver Vernon Unsworth, whom Musk called a "pedo guy" in a tweet, and he represents Tesla in a lawsuit with a former employee in Nevada who the company alleges started a sabotage campaign after he was denied promotion.

The former head of the U.S. attorney’s office in Santa Ana, California, sealed his reputation as lead prosecutor for the Enron trial of Kenneth Lay and Jeffrey Skilling in 2006. Both men were convicted of securities and wire fraud.

Hueston and three other lawyers from his firm will take over the defense of the Tesla Inc. chief executive officer from Williams & Connolly, the white-shoe Washington firm that had been representing Musk in the SEC’s case, according to a filing Thursday in federal court in Manhattan.

The Hueston Hennigan team will have to meet a March 11 deadline to file papers opposing the SEC request to hold Musk in contempt of court. A ruling finding Musk in contempt could result in fines, social media restrictions and even possible removal from the chief executive chair for Musk.

The lawyers didn’t say why the change is being made. Steven Farina from Williams & Connolly told the court that Musk agreed to the change and said it "should cause no delay in the proceedings."

Dane Butswinkas, Tesla’s general counsel who represented Musk in his fight with the SEC, quit the automaker last week and said he was going back to Williams & Connolly.

The case is SEC v. Musk, 18-cv-08865, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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