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Talk about walking in someone else's footsteps: the founder of an electric vehicles manufacturer is the subject of proceedings issued by the USA's Securities and Exchange Commission in respect of comments he made, especially on social media, about the company, its products and prospects. It's not Tesla: it's Nikola.

Don't blame us - we don't make stuff up, you know.

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It's one of the quickest settlements that the USA's Securities and Accounts Commission will ever see. On 27th September, civil proceedings were started. That was Thursday. The proceedings were, it has to be said, no surprise but while the "what" was expected, the "when" was unknown. After all, American prosecutors and regulators enjoy the glare of publicity and trying their cases in the court of public opinion long before they ever get to a court room. But Elon Musk, who is increasingly demonstrating deteriorating judgement in so many ways, is nothing if not decisive. On Saturday, 29th September, the SEC issued a statement: the SEC and Musk had settled and Musk didn't do anywhere near as badly as the SEC had applied for. But there is a sting in the tail.

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It's now clear: posting message on social media such as twitter, facebook and instagram is regarded by the USA's Securities and Exchange Commission in the same light as any other statement and the consequences for false or misleading information are the same as any other means of disseminating such information. Elon Musk, hardly a shrinking violet when it comes to grabbing headlines for his various ventures, is the defendant in a civil action brought by the SEC: what happens here will define both how corporations use social media and whether others who have posted material they should not have done will be brought to book.

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