Engineers at Nikola had warned then-CEO Trevor Milton not to call the company’s hydrogen-powered truck “functioning” and “fully built.” Still, Mr. Milton went ahead and held an event at which a Nikola prototype was pushed down a hill whilst making a video that made it look like the truck was really clipping along. The truck had no fuel cell or hydrogen gas storage tanks (as would be required for a hydrogen-powered truck).
In addition, Mr. Milton said publicly that the company had “billions of billion of dollars in orders.” Actually, Nikola had only one binding order.
The company disclosed the amount of the fine, but offered a “Not to worry,” because the company will seek reimbursement from Mr. Milton. Mr. Milton, through his lawyer, said that he would defend against “false allegations leveled against me by outside detractors.” An internal report and now an SEC investigation have concluded that Mr. Milton made false statements and did not have a truck that was operational. Those darn detractors.