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Nikola, Milton and the SEC


Electric auto startup Nikola acknowledged Friday that the company or its founder had made several false statements, confirming elements of an investor report that sharply criticized the company.

The company said nine statements by Nikola or founder and former executive chairman, Trevor Milton, were “inaccurate in whole or part,” according to a securities filing.

The acknowledgement was the latest fallout from a withering report by short-selling firm Hindenburg Research in September slammed Nikola as an “intricate fraud” based on multiple lies by Milton.

Milton resigned shortly after the report, which was released days after General Motors announced a plan to take a stake in the Nikola. GM terminated the transaction in November, but said it reached preliminary agreement to supply its technology to the company.

The Hindenburg report has also spawned probes by the Justice Department and Securities and Exchange Commission.

Nikola hired the law firm Kirkland & Ellis to undertake an internal review, which confirmed several elements in the Hindenburg report while refuting others.

“These findings are inconsistent with the main conclusion of the Hindenburg article that the company was an ‘intricate’ or ‘massive fraud,'” Nikola said in the filing.

However, Nikola said the review was ongoing and Kirkland & Ellis had not issued conclusions as to whether any of the inaccurate statements “violated any statute.”

The company released a list of problem claims by Milton over four years, including saying an electric truck it used in a marketing video was “a fully functioning” vehicle; that all its major components were “done in house;” and that it had five trucks “coming off the assembly line.”

But Nikola said other Hindenburg charges were “inaccurate,” citing the views of Automotive Experts, a consulting firm hired by Kirkland & Ellis to “conduct an independent assessment of the current state of our technology development,” the filing said.

Automotive Experts concluded that Nikola’s workforce is led by technical and engineering staff with “deep industry experience and expertise,” that its technology is comparable with other automakers early in their development and that its “maturity level” is consistent with other “emerging original equipment manufacturer” in the sector.

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S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D. Economist at Knightsbridge holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Crypto, Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.