Nikola threatens to sue Hindenburg Research after fraud accusation

Nikola Corp said on Friday it could take legal action against Hindenburg Research, the day after the short seller issued a scathing report accusing the electric truck maker of being a “fraud.”

“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 a statement that never identified Hindenburg by name. “We have nothing to hide and we will refute these allegations.”

A Nikola spokeswoman confirmed Friday’s statement was in reference to Hindenburg.

The Phoenix-based company, whose shares were down 9% in early trading, 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. It said it had hired law firm Kirkland & Ellis to evaluate its options.

Hindenburg had shorted the stock on Thursday and said it had gathered enough evidence to show that Nikola founder and Executive Chairman Trevor Milton made false statements about possessing proprietary technology to form partnerships with large automakers. The short-seller also accused Milton of nepotism.

Hindenburg founder Nathan Anderson said in a statement on Friday that his 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.”

After the report came out Thursday, Milton on Twitter called it a “hit job” and said he would “put together responses to their lies.” The company subsequently said it had been “vetted by some of the world’s most credible companies and investors.”

Earlier this week, automaker General Motors took an 11% stake in Nikola and said the two companies would jointly build electric pickup trucks and hydrogen fuel cell-powered commercial tractor trailers to take on Tesla Inc.

GM said on Thursday after the Hindenburg report was released that it stood by the comments it had made in announcing the alliance and it was “fully confident” in Nikola.

Kirkland & Ellis has represented GM in the past.

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