The scrutiny saga continues.
Although Tesla and Elon Musk have settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the latter’s now infamous tweet, The Wall Street Journal is reporting the US Justice Department is currently overseeing a criminal investigation being conducting by the FBI of the EV car company. What’s going on?
The Justice Department’s inquiry regards Tesla’s Model 3 production claims beginning in 2017. The government agency is interested in whether Musk’s claim of building 5,000 Model 3s per month by December 2017 constitutes fraud. How come? Because Model 3 production wasn’t even underway at the time Musk made that claim. Furthermore, Model 3 production did not even hit that 5,000 unit mark until June 2018.
The US Attorney’s office in San Francisco, who is reportedly heading the investigation, and the FBI want to know whether Tesla and Musk made that production number projection knowing it would be impossible to do so beforehand. If they were aware, that would be fraud because it misled investors, at least that’s the government’s viewpoint.
According to the WSJ report, FBI agents have been reaching out to now-former Tesla employees in an effort to get them to testify if and when a criminal case winds up in court. The FBI has also reportedly sent subpoenas to certain ex-employees to interview in order to ascertain whether Musk’s production figure statements were made with the knowledge they couldn’t be achieved in the first place.
For its part, Tesla claims it is cooperating with investigators, stating it “received a voluntary request for documents from the Department of Justice about its public guidance for the Model 3 ramp and we were cooperative in responding to it. We have not received a subpoena, a request for testimony or any other formal process, and there have been no additional document requests about this from the Department of Justice for months.” Tesla just can’t seem to catch a break, despite the fact it just reported a third-quarter profit after nearly three years of losing money.