By on November 24, 2021

Nikola Corp. founder, Trevor Milton, has been offloading stock ever since he was indicted for making misleading and/or blatantly false statements about the company. The formal charges were issued in July, piggybacking off a critically damning report from 2020 that alleged Nikola had grotesquely misrepresented its production capabilities and falsified a video where it showed an inoperable prototype vehicle working as if it was fully functional. The paper caught the attention of both the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) as well as the Department of Justice (DOJ) — resulting in Milton stepping down as CEO and twelve months of investigative probes

According to Bloomberg, the founder dumped 11.7 million shares of Nikola in a series of transactions that wrapped up on Tuesday. That was estimated to be worth about $131 million and stacks with $153 million of stock Milton sold in August of 2021.

From Bloomberg:

Federal prosecutors took issue with his claims about the startup’s first semi-truck prototype, which was inoperable; a battery-electric and hydrogen-powered pickup that amounted to little more than design sketches; and Nikola’s hydrogen production capabilities, battery-development work and customer orders.

Nikola announced earlier this month it was in talks with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve its investigation and expects to pay a $125 million civil penalty. The company ended September with about $587 million in cash.

While the vehicle startup saw its valuation plummet immediately after last year’s scandal, its share price has been comparatively stable in recent months. But it’s still trending down and Milton may need a bunch of money to help cover some sizable legal bills.

But this is also what rich people do, especially when they happen to be in charge of an EV startup. Milton, and those like him, are too often the modern equivalent of a snake-oil salesman. Some businesses barter untested mobility solutions, typically targeting small cities desperate to revitalize their image. Others simply go big and sell the dream of emissions-free transportation without a hint of how it’s to be accomplished. Though the result is always the same, a public that buys in and executives that cash outright when the company begins to tank. The resulting funds are then put into assets yielding legitimate value (e.g. fancy homes) and sometimes recirculated into the next business venture.

This is hardly limited to the automotive realm, of course. Fraudulent businesses and misleading marketing predate recorded history. But there’s clearly a surplus in several modern sectors of commerce, with EV startups occupying a spot somewhere near the top.

While we cannot say that Milton had premeditated plans to con Nikola investors, there’s a case being made to prove that’s exactly what happened. Though it pretty much always feels like these kinds of financial shenanigans fall short of anything that can be considered true accountability. My guess is that the decades-old sexual impropriates that always seem to come after larger, more-actionable scandals, will continue to follow Milton around in the media. Trevor supposedly abused his underage cousin at a funeral when he was 18. But those allegations will quickly dissipate once the public has lost interest or he’s issued a slap on the wrist for the as-of-yet-unproven industrial misdeeds.

Then, assuming that we’re sticking to the modern manner of “doing business,” he’ll reemerge a few years later to announce some miraculous product that he’ll be able to mass-produce after investors have poured a few billion into his new company. Meanwhile, Nikola will throw a few employees under the bus and be faulted for having a “toxic corporate culture” that can only be ended by adding more female executives. Your guess is as good as mine on whether or not the company will ever mass-produce electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, however.

[Image: Nikola]

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10 Comments on “Nikola Founder Continues Dumping Stock Following Criminal Indictment...”

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    “Your guess is as good as mine on whether or not the company will ever mass-produce electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles, however.”

    That’s easy; they won’t.

  • avatar

    This is Enron on make believe electric wheels. Milton is working on being the next U.S. billionaire.

  • avatar

    They should investigate general motors too. They knew this was a scam to make money out of the stock. They manipulated investors and try to cash out. That’s the only reason gm try to get on the action with this spac and also lordstown motors. Both scam companies.

  • avatar

    A tesla s has a 1200 lb battery in a 4700 lb car. = 25 % wt is battery

    semi hauls 80,000 max.
    25,000 lb battery and the tractor chassis that probably weighs 10,000 lbs
    ok, so we have a
    35,000 lb BEV tractor
    20,000 current peterbilt

    NO SANE TRUCK OWNER WILL USE A BEV tractor AND LOSE 15,000 LBS OF PAYLOAD. lose 25 % of pay load. This means 25% more trucks. Drivers and so forth.

    Numbers could be off. Batteries will get better. Yeah i know blah blah….

    Beta boy vapor ware.
    All BS.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      Tesla disagrees with your math:

      Companies like Walmart and Pepsi have pre-orders in for this truck. They understand shipping costs to the penny.

      • 0 avatar

        The original post in this thread had the analysis of its content in the very last line:

        “All BS.”

        There are naysayers who just can’t ever see that their ultra-conservative position simply is not true any more. I know a guy who still insists that solar is great, but it’s still way too expensive. These suckers will fall for anything.

    • 0 avatar

      @redapple: “Numbers could be off. Batteries will get better. Yeah i know blah blah….”

      The numbers have changed in a couple of ways. The batteries going into the Tesla Semi ARE better in terms of gravimetric density than the cells in mass production currently. I’ve been hearing 380 Wh/kg for gravimetric density for the 4680 up from 260 WH/kg. Getting those batteries into production was what delayed the semi. Also, in the US, electric class 8 trucks are allowed another 2,000 lbs and 4,400 in the EU. So, from what I understand, no difference in payload weight.

      There are also plenty of batteries with better gravimetric densities than the 4680. The problem is one that you are more familiar with than anyone else here. It’s mass production. Cool battery, but can you mass produce it? Uhhh, yeah, uhh, we’re working on that.

      My educated guess, and I do mean speculation, is that the cell weight is 2,900 lbs. Total pack weight of a 4680 pack is hard to guess, but should be closer to cell weight than previous packs. How much closer, I don’t know. A Cummins X15 class 8 engine weighs 2,961 lbs. About the same as the Tesla 4680 cells. A diesel semi can carry up to 300 gallons of fuel so 6.8 x 300 is 2,040. So, engine + fuel is 5,001 lbs. A Tremec 18 speed truck transmission weighs 794 lbs. Four motors in the Tesla semi weigh about 185 lbs. total. You start comparing the numbers and an electric semi without a major payload loss seems doable.

  • avatar

    Criminals have discovered the automotive business? This is alarming.

  • avatar

    This is not a company.

    Case closed…..

    They did fool GM.

  • avatar

    This is not a company.

    Case closed…..

    They did fool GM.

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