Nikola founder Trevor Milton indicted in US for misleading investors

By Jonathan Stempel and Ben Klayman

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Trevor Milton, the founder and archaic executive chairman of Nikola Corp, became criminally charged on Thursday with defrauding investors by lying to them concerning the electrical- and hydrogen-powered truck maker.

In an indictment, prosecutors in Unique York charged Milton with two counts of securities fraud and one depend of wire fraud over his statements from November 2019 to September 2020 about Nikola’s product and know-how constructing.

Prosecutors acknowledged Milton misled investors in repeat to force up Nikola’s inventory imprint, become considered one of many enviornment’s 100 richest of us and “elevate his stature as an entrepreneur.”

Spokespeople for Milton had no instantaneous comment.

Nikola acknowledged in an announcement that it has cooperated with the authorities and is centered on handing over Tre battery-electric automobiles this One year. The firm became not charged.

In morning Trading, Nikola shares were down $1.20, or 8.5%, at $12.99, after falling as miniature as $12.60.

Prosecutors acknowledged Milton’s wicked statements integrated that Nikola had early success in creating the “Nikola One” semi-truck that he knew didn’t work, built an electrical- and hydrogen-powered “Badger” pickup from the “ground up,” and had developed batteries in-home that Milton knew it became buying in varied locations.

Tesla Inc is amongst Nikola’s competitors in the electrical truck sector.

Nikola went public in June 2020 after merging with a special-reason acquisition firm, or SPAC.

Per prosecutors, the worth of Milton’s inventory in the Phoenix-basically based totally mostly firm became worth not less than $8.5 billion shortly after the announcements regarding the Badger.

Milton stepped down as Nikola’s executive chairman final September, two weeks after short-seller Hindenburg Evaluation labeled the firm a “fraud” and acknowledged it made many deceptive statements about its know-how.

Nikola denied the accusations, nonetheless in February acknowledged a review by an initiate air law firm uncovered statements by Milton and the firm that were partly or fully sinful.

“We commend regulators for appearing expediently to offer protection to investors and defend Milton guilty for his egregious lies,” Hindenburg founder Nathan Anderson acknowledged in an announcement.

Hindenburg issued its file shortly after General Motors Co agreed to present batteries, chassis structure, fuel cell programs and a factory for the Badger pickup, in change for an 11% Nikola stake and $700 million.

The companies transformed that relationship final November, casting off the equity stake and plans to attain the truck.

U.S. authorities own stepped up scrutiny of SPACs, that are a faster means than initial public offerings to make a choice out non-public companies public.

Critics remark the technique is inclined to conflicts of curiosity and shoddy due diligence. U.S. prosecutors are also investigating electric automobile firm Lordstown Motors Corp, which went public in a SPAC.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in Unique York, Ben Klayman in Detroit and Chris Prentice in Washington, D.C.; Improving by Kevin Liffey, Howard Goller and Dan Grebler)

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