September 23, 2023

A Falcon 9 rocket will be launched outside the Space Exploration Technologies Corp. headquarters in Hawthorne, California on January 28, 2021. (SpaceX) issued.

Patrick T. Fallon | AFP | Getty Images

SpaceX should be forced to comply with a Justice Department subpoena to investigate whether Elon Musk’s company has illegally discriminated against foreign applicants, a judge recommended on Monday.

The judge’s report, which described “several” federal investigations into the hiring practices of the aerospace giant, rejected SpaceX’s argument that the subpoena constituted a “transgression of government.”

The DOJ’s Immigration and Labor Rights Division (IER) has “shown that your subpoena is relevant and enforceable for at least one ongoing investigation into the company,” wrote Judge Michael Wilner in his recommendation.

“In addition, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the subpoena is overseas or that SpaceX is unduly encumbered,” said the report in federal court in central California.

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If SpaceX doesn’t object by April 12, Wilner’s recommendation will be sent to a federal district judge who will make a decision and deal with all other matters on the case.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the judicial filing. The DOJ did not immediately comment.

The IER, part of the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, launched an investigation in May to determine whether SpaceX “committed an individual violation or pattern or practice” of citizenship discrimination in violation of US law was discontinued.

The investigation was based on a complaint that “SpaceX was investigating his citizenship status on or about March 10, 2020 during the charging party interview for the Technology Strategy Associate position and ultimately not hiring him for the position because he is not.” a US citizen or legal permanent resident, “DOJ attorneys said in a memorandum filed in California federal court in January.

IER received a subpoena on a number of documents from SpaceX in October, the memo says. The company filed a subpoena revocation request earlier that month, but it was revoked and SpaceX was asked to comply.

SpaceX Founder and Chief Engineer Elon Musk speaks during the Satellite 2020 conference on March 9, 2020 in Washington, DC, United States.

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In mid-December, SpaceX confirmed the order, but informed the IER that it “does not intend to provide any additional information in response to the administrative subpoena,” according to the DOJ’s memo asking the federal court to enforce the subpoena.

In a fiery response last month, SpaceX called the investigation “the definition of transgression”.

The company protested against what IER called an attempt to “boot” a “frivolous” claim of “an applicant” into the far-reaching (and expanded) model or field studies the agency is currently conducting.

But Wilner disagreed on Monday. “SpaceX has not been able to convincingly prove that the IER subpoena is wrongly overseas,” he wrote in his recommendation.

Musk, the billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, has a long history of clashes with the government.

In 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission accused Musk of fraud, alleging he had tweeted people astray into considering taking Tesla private to make sure he was “secured” in funding.

Musk and Tesla reached a settlement agreement to pay a $ 20 million fine.

In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Musk spoke out about government protection orders and railed at a Tesla win appeal about the “fascist” rules.

– CNBC’s Dan Mangan contributed to this report.