(TechCrunch) – The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is reportedly looking into claims that Nikola Corp. is involved in an alleged “intricate fraud,” the latest development in a controversy that erupted last week just days after GM took an 11% stake in the newly public company.
Bloomberg reported Monday that the U.S. agency was examining the company to assess the merits of accusations made by short-seller Hindenburg Research. The Bloomberg report, which was based on unnamed sources, sent Nikola shares down more than 9% in after-hours trading.
Nikola’s statement, which was sent to TechCrunch, doesn’t answer the question of whether the SEC is in fact investigating the matter. The company said that on September 11, Nikola’s legal counsel “proactively contacted and briefed” the SEC regarding its “concerns pertaining to the Hindenburg report.”
“Nikola welcomes the SEC’s involvement in this matter,” the company added in the statement. TechCrunch has reached out to the SEC for confirmation that the agency is investigating the matter.
While this saga between Hindenburg Research and Nikola began last week, questions have swirled in recent months over some of electric automaker’s past claims. The Hindenburg report, which was released September 10, caused Nikola shares to fall and its founder to take to Twitter in an effort to allay concerns. Hindenburg Research’s report raised questions about the validity of Nikola’s claims over the years, as well as accusations of nepotism.
Nikola issued Monday a carefully worded, point-by-point rebuttal that attempts to disprove Hindenburg Research’s report. Following each of the points that Nikola denies or explains, the company placed this statement: “These allegations by the short seller are false and misleading, and designed to manipulate the market to profit from a manufactured decline in Nikola’s stock price.”
“Nikola believes that the Hindenburg report, and the opportunistic timing of its publication shortly after announcement of Nikola’s partnership with General Motors Co. and the resulting positive share price reaction, was designed to provide a false impression to investors and to negatively manipulate the market in order to financially benefit short sellers, including Hindenburg itself,” Nikola said in its rebuttal issued Monday.
Despite Nikola’s lengthy report — and in some cases because of it — criticisms have arisen over the company’s previous promotional tactics, specifically surrounding its first hydrogen electric semi truck prototype, the Nikola One.