Nikola founder charged with fraud by SEC | I-40 bridge reopened ahead of schedule

Updated Aug 7, 2021

Trucking news and briefs for Monday, Aug. 2, 2021:

Nikola founder charged with fraud

Nikola Motor Company founder and former CEO Trevor Milton was charged last week with disseminating false and misleading information about the company's products and technological accomplishments, which caused the company's stock price and valuation to soar last year.

The charges, levied by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), accuse Milton of "repeatedly disseminating false and misleading information – typically by speaking directly to investors through social media."

“We allege that Milton repeatedly made claims, mostly through social media, that either misstated or far exceeded what Nikola and its products actually did or could do,” said David Peavler, regional director of the SEC’s Fort Worth Regional Office. "Public company officials cannot say whatever they want on social media without regard for the federal securities laws. The same rules apply, and the SEC will hold those who make materially false and misleading statements accountable regardless of the communication channel they use.” 

Milton founded Nikola in 2015 with the goal of manufacturing trucks that run on alternative fuels – namely hydrogen – with low or zero emissions, and building an alternative fueling station infrastructure to support those vehicles. Milton helped Nikola raise more than $1 billion in private offerings and go public through a business combination conducted by a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC). 

Milton in September stepped down as executive chairman of his Phoenix, Arizona-based hydrogen-electric upstart amid a firestorm of criticism sparked by stock short-seller Hindenburg Research, which released a report calling Nikola an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies,” and claimed to have evidence, including recorded phone calls, text messages, emails and more detailing alleged false statements by Milton.

The SEC’s complaint charges Milton with violating the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The complaint seeks a permanent injunction, a conduct-based injunction, an officer and director bar, disgorgement with prejudgment interest and civil penalties. 

In a statement provided to Overdrive sister publication CCJ Thursday, Nikola noted that Milton "has not been involved in the company’s operations or communications since [September 20, 2020]. Today’s government actions are against Mr. Milton individually, and not against the company. Nikola has cooperated with the government throughout the course of its inquiry. We remain committed to our previously announced milestones and timelines and are focused on delivering Nikola Tre battery-electric trucks later this year from the company’s manufacturing facilities." –Jason Cannon

[Related: When truck manufacturing stalwart Daimler rolled out the first electric truck

I-40 bridge reopened ahead of schedule

The I-40 Hernando DeSoto Bridge over the Mississippi River is fully reopened as of Monday afternoon at 1 p.m.

The eastbound lanes of the bridge reopened Saturday, July 31, at 10 p.m. The remaining work and cleanup in the westbound lanes were completed Monday, allowing the westbound lanes to reopen ahead of the expected Aug. 6 completion date.


Ramps previously closed along I-40 westbound will be reopening. The ramp from Metal Museum Drive to I-55 south will remain closed. The currently closed right lane from Riverside Drive to I-55 south will also remain closed. All other ramps around the I-55 and Crump interchange will be reopening.

The bridge was closed in May when an inspector found a large crack in a steel support beam.

Aside from fixing the crack that was identified, repair crews also strengthened the bridge by repairing an additional 16 steel plates.

1,400 Kenworth tractors recalled

Paccar is recalling a reported 1,441 model year 2022 Kenworth W900, T880 and T680 tractors for an issue with the windshield defrost system.

According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration documents, the HVAC controls in the affected units may have insufficient soldering between the potentiometer(s) and the PCBA board, resulting in windshield defrost failure.

Dealers will replace the HVAC control head for free. Owners can contact Paccar customer service at 1-425-828-5888 with recall number 21KWE. NHTSA’s recall number is 21V-546.

Fueling down at Monteagle, Tenn., Pilot following fire

The Pilot Travel Center in Monteagle, Tennessee, is temporarily down for diesel fueling after a fire destroyed the fuel island at the location last week. Pilot estimates that fueling will reopen by mid-August.

“We are thankful that no one was injured, and we would like to thank the Monteagle Fire and Rescue and neighboring agencies who quickly responded to contain the fire,” the company said in a statement. “The cause is currently under investigation. We are working on repairs to restore diesel fueling as quickly as possible and estimate that it will reopen in mid-August.”

[Related: Tennesseean truck stop planning to reopen after fire closes the operation]

New Love’s opens in Oklahoma

Love’s Travel Stops opened its 81st location in Oklahoma last week with a new store in Durant, located off U.S. Highway 70.

The new Love’s features 13 truck parking spaces, Chester’s Chicken and Godfather’s Pizza restaurants, six diesel bays, six showers and more.

The store is also the company’s third in Durant.

The Business Manual for Owner-Operators
Overdrive editors and ATBS present the industry’s best manual for prospective and committed owner-operators. You’ll find exceptional depth on many issues in the 2021 edition of Partners in Business.
Download
Partners in Business Issue Cover