Science

Automobile: Nikola pays the bill for its founder’s adventures

Posted on dec. 2021 at 18:23Updated December 21. 2021 at 18:27

The end of a long and painful chapter for Nikola. On Wednesday, the electric truck maker said it had reached an agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to close the legal dispute that pits it against the US securities police for a year. Target of a hoax investigation, the company will pay the SEC $ 125 million.

“We are happy to close this chapter as all government investigations have been completed,” the company said in a statement. Nikola, who said in November that he had provisioned $ 125 million in his accounts, will pay this amount in five semi-annual installments starting in late 2021.

The startup’s troubles date back to June 2020, shortly after its successful Wall Street debut. Nikola has not yet sold anything, but his promises make investors dream: to produce electric pick-ups and vans (starting this year) and hydrogen (starting 2023). Its best ambassador is none other than its founding boss, Trevor Milton, who multiplies the projections on Twitter, at the wheel of one Elon Musk. The stock is close to $ 80 and Nikola briefly exceeds Ford’s market capitalization.

Way of the Cross

It’s a Bloomberg poll that will be the first to deviate from a straight line. Trevor Milton would exaggerate the performance of his vehicles, report anonymous sources cited by the financial agency. Three months later, a killer report from short seller Hendenbourg Research emphasizes the point: partnerships, technology maturity, performance … “dozens of lies” would dot the company’s speech.

Then a long way to the cross begins. General Motors, which had planned to acquire an 11% stake, is content with a simple relationship with the supplier; The SEC and the Justice Department open an investigation against Nikola and Trevor Milton, who ultimately resign.

The stock market price below $ 10.

Several suppliers and investors, such as Bosch or the South Korean Hanwa, have distanced themselves and reduced their participation – the share price has fallen since the beginning of the month below $ 10. Not forgetting, therefore, the fine that will put a little more pressure on the finances of a company that just delivered its first trucks last Friday, December 17, and that showed a net loss of $ 267 million during the last three months.

“Nikola is responsible for both Mr. Milton’s misleading statements and other deceptions, all of which have misrepresented the actual financial and technological status of the company,” said Gurbir Grewal, head of rule enforcement at the SEC. The company itself has taken legal action against its former boss to obtain financial compensation.

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