The same short seller that took down Nikola makes serious allegations.
Everything was seemingly going just fine for Lordstown Motors, the General Motors-backed all-electric truck maker based in Lordstown, Ohio where it inhabits a newly-converted former GM factory that previously built the Chevy Cruze. But a PR disaster has now struck. Hindenburg Research, the short seller who released an extensive report last fall against Nikola alleging massive fraud that ultimately led to its chairman's resignation and a government investigation, has issued a new report with serious allegations about Lordstown.
Published last Friday, Hindenburg's report claims Lordstown Motors misled investors regarding the capabilities of the Endurance pickup truck, and further overstated the number of pre-orders. Hindenburg adds it's taken an unspecified short position in the publically traded Lordstown Motors, meaning it'll make money once the startup's stock price drops (it already has).
This report could also potentially spell trouble for GM for not properly investigating startups prior to investing in them. GM had previously intended to take a major stake in Nikola prior to the accusations but later backed out following the report's release. Nikola and GM have since agreed to a significantly scaled-down deal.
GM previously loaned Lordstown $40 million to help it buy the factory and ultimately invested funds totaling $75 million when the latter merged with a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC), which resulted in Lordstown becoming a publicly listed company on the NASDAQ stock exchange. Thanks to GM's help, Lordstown managed to raise almost $700 million. The company is also hoping to obtain a Department of Energy loan. Hindenburg accuses Lordstown, specifically its founder and CEO Steve Burns, of fudging the numbers regarding the 100,000 pre-orders taken so far.
For example, it claims Burns paid consultants for every truck pre-order as early as 2016. Later, a small consulting group was paid to generate pre-orders. More recently, a two-person startup operating out of a virtual office with a UPS Store mailing address in Texas placed an order for 1,000 trucks totaling $52.5 million. Hindenburg spoke to its owner who admitted it won't actually order any vehicles, claiming the "pre-order" is just a marketing relationship. Another company supposedly committed to 500 trucks said the letters of interest are non-binding, meaning there's no firm commitment to buy. Burns, however, referred to these agreements as "very serious orders."
Lordstown, whose stock dropped 16 percent following the release of the Hindenburg report, promised late Friday it will share "a full and thorough statement in the coming days, and when we do we will absolutely be refuting the Hindenburg Research report."