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Earlier this week, former Nikola CEO Trevor Milton was indicted on two counts of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud, after misleading investors about the financial condition and basically every facet of Nikola’s operation. The indictments come after months of silence from Milton, who has basically disappeared into thin air following his resigning as Nikola’s CEO. The announcement of Milton’s charges, which were carried out by the U.S. Attorney Southern District of New York’s office, will set precedent for CEOs moving forward, especially for those who have announced major breakthroughs in electric vehicle technology without releasing any relevant products.
For the last 13 years, Tesla has combated companies and automakers that have set forth a path to dethrone the electric car entity from its post as the best EV maker in the world. However, Tesla has never been even remotely challenged by an all-electric car company that has been established in recent memory. Most likely, this is due to Tesla’s domination of the electric vehicle sector in nearly every category, including battery tech, software, vehicle design, and autonomy.
This has not stopped CEOs of other automakers from making outlandish claims with their vehicles, and Milton was just one of many. Since the 2018 lawsuit that Nikola filed against Tesla for allegedly taking design ideas from the Nikola One and implementing them into the Tesla Semi, it seems Milton has been the only CEO to actually convince some people that their product is meaningful and groundbreaking, despite not having much of a product at all. Considering Nikola admittedly misled shareholders about the capabilities of its all-electric commercial vehicle, there should be a hint to the CEOs of the companies that do and will exist in the future: don’t lie about your product, and don’t insight shareholders to believe something that is true.
This point should be common sense and should be evidently clear, but it is something that should set other CEOs of emerging automakers to tread carefully with their words and claims. Taking advantage of a highly marketable and quickly growing EV sector requires a strategic entrance into the market. Lying about the capabilities of what your vehicles might be able to do in the future, simply is not a great move. Over time, things may be established and successful with the dedication and hard work of teams of engineers and others. But until that day, it may be best to stop claiming things about the product, and simply release some kind of evidence that the company is not “an intricate fraud,” as Hindenburg Research called it.
When companies can effectively manufacture a product worth value and prove to people, especially shareholders, that they are for real about entering the sector, there is a significant amount of respect that heads toward the entity that came through. Skepticism is a commonly displayed trait, especially in the electric vehicle sector, because so many companies have come and gone, setting up their own expectations that are quite lofty, only to come short. This inevitably leaves many EV enthusiasts, especially Tesla owners and fans, feeling let down for what could eventually come.
Without a doubt, there will be some people that will inevitably take advantage of excited investors who are passionate about the possibility of sustainable energy and transportation. Based on the allegations set forth by the U.S. Department of Justice against Milton, he is one of those individuals and this statement could be proven in a federal courtroom in the coming months. “The one thing fraudsters have in common – they’re liars, cheaters, and thieves,” Inspector-in-Charge Phillip R. Bartlett said. He added that if an investment opportunity seems too good to be true, it probably is.
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