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Founder of EV startup Nikola charged with misleading investors

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A federal grand jury charged Trevor Milton, founder and former chairman of EV startup Nikola, with three counts of criminal fraud, Bloomberg reports. 

He’s accused of lying about “nearly all aspects of the business” to increase stock sales of the electric vehicle startup, according to an indictment unsealed Thursday.

Specifically, prosecutors charged him with two counts of securities fraud, including making false statements about the electric truck company, and wire fraud.

In a separate complaint filed the same day, the Securities and Exchange Commission commented the following: 

Milton sold a version of Nikola not as it was — an early-stage company with a novel idea to commercialize yet-to-be proven products and technology — but rather as a trail-blazing company that had already achieved many groundbreaking and game-changing milestones.

“Trevor Milton is innocent,” his lawyers said in a statement. “This is a new low in the government’s efforts to criminalize lawful business conduct. Every executive in America should be horrified.”

Milton, who surrendered voluntarily to federal custody, pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges in a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday afternoon. 

He was also freed on a $100 million bail secured by his 2,700-acre property in Utah.

Nikola has developed hydrogen electric semi-trucks aimed at the European market, while, last fall, the company announced a partnership with General Motors to develop a pick-up truck powered by Nikola’s hydrogen fuel cell.

But now the company’s future seems rather ominous. Nikola’s shares closed down 15% on Thursday to $12.03, the biggest drop since January, while the stock is down 21% year-to-date.


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