Nikola founder Trevor Milton’s US trial to begin with jury selection

Nikola founder Trevor Milton's US trial to begin with jury selection
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NEW YORK, Sept 12 (Reuters) – The US fraud trial against Trevor Milton, the founder and former CEO of Nikola Corp. (NKLA.O) who prosecutors accuse of lying to investors about the maker of electric and hydrogen trucks, will begin jury selection Monday in federal court in Manhattan.

Prosecutors have said Milton tried to mislead investors about the company’s technology starting in November 2019. He left the company in September 2020 after a report by short seller Hindenburg Research called the company a “fraud.” “.

Milton, 40, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud. His attorneys have indicated they will argue that Milton did not intend to defraud investors and that other senior Nikola executives, including his general counsel, approved of Milton’s statements.

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Milton was indicted last year. Prosecutors said he made false statements about Nikola’s progress in developing its technology as the company joined the growing number of publicly traded electric vehicle and technology companies through special purpose vehicle acquisitions, or SPACs. .

Prosecutors said Milton’s misstatements included that Nikola had built a “Badger” pickup truck powered by hydrogen and electricity from scratch, developed batteries in-house that he knew he was buying elsewhere, and had early success creating a pickup truck.” Nikola A semi that I knew was not working.

Milton’s remarks on social media and in podcasts were aimed at retail investors who have piled into the stock market during shutdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, they said. Milton is also accused of defrauding the seller of a Utah ranch, who said in a civil lawsuit that he accepted Nikola’s stock options as part of the purchase price based on the former CEO’s claims about the company.

Nikola has spent more than $20 million on Milton’s legal defense so far, according to his public filings.

The company went public in June 2020 through a reverse merger with VectoIQ Acquisition Corp. Nikola’s market value topped $33 billion that month, but has since fallen below $3 billion.

Nikola agreed in December to pay $125 million to settle claims by the US Securities and Exchange Commission that the company defrauded investors by misleading them about its products, technical advances and business prospects.

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Information from Jody Godoy; Additional reporting by Luc Cohen; Edited by Will Dunham

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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