It has not been long since news about the allegations against Trevor Milton came to light. The former CEO and founder of Nikola, a maker of electric trucks, was faced with charges that included wire and securities fraud after misleading investors about the company’s technology. The deception led to investors losing a massive amount of money, and now, it has led to Trevor Milton being found guilty of fraud.
There was a time when Trevor Milton seemed unstoppable. He got people excited as he promised to revolutionize the automotive industry, and his vision saw investors flooding in to support him. It even made him a billionaire and pushed Nikola to a point where it was worth more than Ford on the stock market for a time during the company’s height in 2020.
But the hype did not last forever. Reports appeared that revealed his false claims, including a video that gave the illusion of a working prototype when there was not one. The news caused stock prices to plummet, and it eventually led to his resignation from the company.
Unfortunately, the damage was already done. Although Nikola finally produced a battery-powered truck, stock prices fell from a high of around $66 in 2020 to recent lows beneath $3.
The dip in value and loss due to poor sales and a fraud settlement left the company in shambles. Worse still, it devastated investors, including a long list of small-scale investors that Milton pulled in using interviews and social media.
Moreover, the lies were not something that only popped up toward the end. They began as far back as 2016, a time when he was already giving the impression that the company had a fully-functional truck.
During the trial, prosecutors went over all of his actions during his time as the CEO of the company, including the false statements he released about the company’s products and capabilities. For instance, a supposed network of hydrogen fueling stations for trucks powered by fuel cells. Although it might have been something the company planned, it never came to fruition, despite Milton claiming Nikola had built stations.
Assistant US Attorney Jordan Estes said it was “lie after lie after lie” in her closing argument last Thursday, continuing to say, “His lies may have been on social media, but make no mistake: This was an old-fashioned fraud.”
Milton’s lawyers argued that he never meant to deceive and that his statements were not important enough to sway investors. But between witnesses and other evidence, the jury felt otherwise.
It all came to an end last Friday, though. Trevor Milton, 40, was found guilty of fraud by a federal jury in Manhattan. The trial saw him convicted on one count of securities fraud and two counts of wire fraud, with the possibility of years in prison.
It is a major fall from grace for the entrepreneur who, at one point, stood as a billionaire with a company valued at $34 billion. Now, his fortune has declined, his company is in tatters, and he is facing the consequences of his years of lies and exaggerations.