Tesla released its first-quarter delivery numbers early Thursday morning, sending shares of the electric-car maker plummeting and possibly endangering CEO Elon Musk's defense against the SEC, according to JPMorgan. With Musk observing from a defense table, lawyers argued for almost two hours before Nathan urged a settlement.
Tesla said it delivered 63,000 vehicles in the first quarter, nearly one-third less than in early 2018.
But in an apparent violation of the settlement Musk tweeted on 19 February that "Tesla made 0 cars in 2011, but will make around 500k in 2019", meaning 500,000 vehicles.
But Musk's lawyers argue that the 500k figure is consistent with Tesla's past guidance (the SEC disputes this) and therefore wasn't new information that needed fresh legal approval.
Musk later backed off the idea of taking the company private, but regulators concluded he had not lined up the money to pull off the deal. Is this some kind of early April Fools' Day prank or simply Musk's unusual attempt to bring Harambe memes back three years later?
Tesla warned not to view vehicle deliveries as a reflection of its broader financial picture; its quarterly earnings remained unreported.
Noting that Musk had called his $20 million fine "worth it", she said higher fines for future violations might be needed to ensure that further backsliding would be "not worth it".
The legal battle has not stopped Musk from being an outspoken critic of the SEC. "He breached the settlement, so the SEC can do whatever they wish". The SEC did not accuse Tesla of contempt.
But the Silicon Valley carmaker reaffirmed its guidance to deliver between 360,000 and 400,000 vehicles this year, and said US orders for its new Model 3 - which was recently made available for $35,000 - outpaced what the company was able to fulfill in the quarter.
The SEC sought to oust Musk from his role as chairman and CEO over his August tweet.
Others used this opportunity to complain about Tesla.
The hearing comes as Tesla shares slump after it disclosed that vehicle shipments have fallen 31 percent.