The Lordstown Intrigue
Lordstown Motors Companies was supposed to be building electric trucks at a former GM plant in Ohio. However, the company, which went public in October 2020, appears to be yet another electric/alternative truck folly. You may remember that Nikola, the maker of a hydrogen-powered truck, admitted last December that it sales video showing one of its trucks rolling along quite quickly was actually just rolling down a hill, courtesy of gravity. Soon after its CEO disappeared and GM was left holding the keys to a nonworking truck and a bad investment.
Lordstown admitted earlier this month that it did not have the resources to begin producing trucks. When it issued its first financials there was a 23-cent-per-share loss. The CEO said, however, that his company had “pretty binding orders” for the truck. Three days later there was a clarification. Once the lawyers took over with a formal SEC filing the language was that its vehicle purchase agreements “do not commit the counterparts to purchase vehicles, but we believe that they provide us with a significant indicator of demand.” It all depends on the meaning of the term “order,” or more relevantly “nonbinding orders.” Two board members had already resigned over their disagreements with management on the definition of “orders.”
Let’s add to the excitement that with the nonbinding orders came the disclosure that several top executives at Lordstown unloaded their stock just prior to the public announcement of its earnings (or, more accurately, the lack thereof). As one expert phrased it, the stock trades reflect “weak internal controls.” However, internal controls are but the guard rails. What you have here is a company with letters of interest from truck purchasers for trucks that the company lacks the funds to produce.
This is a company in bad need of some truth, candor, transparency, orders, and trucks. So far, it looks like it is 0 for 5.
Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD.
The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. MartinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards.
Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio.
She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News.
In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles.
Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County AttorneyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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