Nikola is paying $8.1 million in legal fees for ousted chairman Trevor Milton

CEO and founding father of U.S. Nikola, Trevor Milton speaks throughout presentation of its new full-electric and hydrogen fuel-cell battery vehicles in partnership with CNH Industrial, at an occasion in Turin, Italy December 2, 2019.

Massimo Pinca | Reuters

Embattled electrical truck start-up Nikola is paying $8.1 million in lawyer fees for ousted founder and chairman Trevor Milton, who left the corporate in September following fraud claims by a short-seller that prompted federal inquiries.

That helped drive the corporate’s legal bills final yr to $27.5 million. Most of that, $24.7 million, was spent responding to regulatory probes and different litigation associated to the claims by Hindenburg Research, Nikola mentioned in its annual submitting Thursday to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

About $1.5 million of Milton’s legal fees had been paid in 2020, in line with the corporate. The start-up misplaced $384.3 million final yr, together with $147.1 million in the fourth quarter, it mentioned Thursday. It’s loss on an adjusted pretax foundation was $200.5 million in 2020.

As a part of its earnings, Nikola additionally lowered supply expectations of its first product referred to as the Tre semitruck from 600 this yr to between 50 and 100 attributable to provider points. Shares of the corporate had been level-to-down throughout afterhours buying and selling after closing Thursday at $19.72 a share, down 6.8% for the day.

“The pandemic has caused significant supply chain disruptions,” Nikola CEO Mark Russell mentioned throughout an earnings name, particularly citing a battery cell scarcity to energy its autos.

A Nikola spokeswoman declined to touch upon whether or not the corporate will try and recoup any of Milton’s legal fees. In its submitting, Nikola mentioned the fees had been a part of his indemnification settlement with firm. It expects to incur extra legal prices this yr associated to the Hindenburg report, which has led to inquiries by the SEC and Department of Justice.

“We have incurred significant expenses as a result of the regulatory and legal matters relating to the Hindenburg article,” Nikola mentioned in the submitting. “The total cost associated with these matters will depend on many factors, including the duration of these matters and any related finding.”

Hindenburg accused Milton of making false statements about Nikola’s know-how in order to develop the corporate and companion with auto firms. The report, titled “Nikola: How to Parlay An Ocean of Lies Into a Partnership With the Largest Auto OEM in America,” was launched two days after the corporate introduced a take care of General Motors that despatched each firms’ shares hovering in September. It characterised Nikola as an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies” by Milton.

Nikola has denied and disputed lots of the accusations, nonetheless the corporate confirmed one among Hindenburg’s largest claims — that it staged a video displaying a truck that seemed to be useful however wasn’t.

An inner investigation by Kirkland & Ellis LLP has been “substantially completed” relating to statements by Milton and the corporate throughout that point, in line with the submitting. No conclusion has been made by the Chicago-based legislation agency as as to if any statements that will have been inaccurate when made violated any statute, in line with the corporate.

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