Ex-Tesla Worker Says Take-Private Bid Was Known Pre-Tweets

(Bloomberg) -- A former Tesla Inc. security manager told U.S. securities regulators that many employees knew of and doubted efforts to take the company private before Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tweeted about them last year. The electric-car maker denied the claim.

Sean Gouthro, the former head of Tesla’s global security operations center and investigations, made the allegation in a tip to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, according to a statement from the law firm he retained. The company said it terminated him after about one year for poor performance.

“Gouthro noted in his submission that the purported planned transaction to take Tesla private at that price was known and discussed internally by many at Tesla days before the subject tweet, and that many were suspect of the purported deal’s legitimacy,” Stuart Meissner, a New York-based attorney, said in the statement.

Musk, 47, tweeted on Aug. 7 that he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share and that he had confirmed investor support for the transaction. Seventeen days later, he announced the company would stay public. He later settled a securities-fraud lawsuit brought by the SEC, which called his tweets false and misleading.

Tesla’s compliance attorney interviewed Gouthro in August and September as part of an internal investigation into some of the issues he’s now bringing forward, and he didn’t raise any of these concerns then, the company said in an emailed statement.

“Mr. Gouthro’s allegations are untrue and sensationalized” and are “only intended to seek the attention of the media,” the company said.

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