With more and more EV makers looking to enjoy some of the advantages of being a publicly traded company, at least one – aside from Tesla – is now seeing the downside, or perhaps more accurately “short” side.
Nikola Corp., which just announced a $2 billion partnership with General Motors earlier this week, issued an angry response to a report issued by short-seller Hindenburg Research that accused the EV maker of “fraud.”
The Phoenix-based company questioned the veracity of the report Friday, adding it is contemplating legal action against Hindenburg Research, although it never mentioned the investment firm by name in the statement.
“To be clear, this was not a research report and it is not accurate. This was a hit job for short sale profit driven by greed,” Nikola said in the released statement. “We have nothing to hide and we will refute these allegations.”
A Nikola spokeswoman confirmed Friday’s statement was in reference to Hindenburg, Reuters news service confirmed. The statement described Hindenburg as an “activist short-seller.” The result is that the company’s shares were down 9% in early trading.
In the statement, Nikola also said it “intended to bring the actions of the activist short-seller, along with evidence and documentation, to the attention of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,” adding it hired law firm Kirkland & Ellis to evaluate its options.
Hindenburg shorted the stock on Thursday, and issued its report about the EV maker, claiming in a bullet point on the company’s website, “Today, we reveal why we believe Nikola is an intricate fraud built on dozens of lies over the course of its Founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton’s career.”
Hindenburg founder Nathan Anderson told Reuters in a statement Friday the firm would welcome a lawsuit by Nikola.
“The company answered none of the 53 questions we raised in our report after promising a full rebuttal,” he said. “We are pleased that Nikola is engaging with the SEC and we are not surprised that Trevor Milton is not commenting further on advice of counsel.”
Hindenburg “specializes in forensic financial research. Our experience in the investment management industry spans decades, with a historical focus on equity, credit and derivatives analysis,” the company says on its website.
The company also provides further clarification about its purpose, which is clearly tied to its name. “We look for similar man-made disasters floating around in the market and aim to shed light on them before they lure in more unsuspecting victims,” according to its website.
Milton on Twitter called it a “hit job,” further tweeting, “It makes sense. Tens of millions of shares shorted the last day or two to slam our stock and hit job by hindenburg. I guess everything is fair game in war, even a hit job. I know who funded it now. Give me a few hours to put together responses to their lies. This is all you got?”
Short selling has been the bane of at least one other EV maker: Tesla. CEO Elon Musk has engaged in an ongoing battle with those shorting his company’s stock for the past few years, many of whom had been quiet for quite a while as the company’s stock climbed steadily for all of 2020, until this week.
However, last month one well-known shorter Randeep Hothi, a graduate student at the University of Michigan and short seller who goes by @skabooshka on Twitter, filed suit against Musk last month. In the suit, Hothi alleged Musk had defamed him in an email and injured his reputation.
The suit claims Musk defamed Hothi in an email he sent to Aaron Greenspan, who operates a law transparency site called PlainSite, responding to questions about his penchant for speaking out against Tesla critics and whistleblowers. In the missive, Musk mentioned Hothi, saying he had “actively harassed” and “almost killed Tesla employees.”
“What was a sideswipe when Hothi hit one of our people could easily have been a death with 6 inches of difference,” Musk wrote, according to the suit. The email’s contents became public and Hothi says he’s been harassed and suffered financial harm, according to Business Insider.