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Tesla : ex-employee claims to SEC that firm lied to investors over Model 3 numbers

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07/12/2018 | 07:21pm CEST

July 12--A former Tesla employee accused of "sabotage" by company CEO Elon Musk has claimed to the Securities and Exchange Commission that the electric car maker lied to investors by grossly inflating Model 3 production numbers.

Model 3 manufacturing has been under intense scrutiny, as widespread adoption of the car is seen as critical to the Palo Alto firm's success, and the vehicle's troubled production failed twice to meet targets set by the firm.

In a "whistleblower" tip to the SEC, former process engineering technician Martin Tripp alleged that Tesla overstated Model 3 production by as much as 44 percent, according to his law firm, Meissner Associates.

Tripp claimed to the SEC that Tesla made misstatements and omissions to shareholders, according to the law firm. Tripp further accused the company of installing punctured batteries "possibly impacting hundreds of cars on the road," putting battery cells too close together and not properly securing them -- a potential fire hazard -- and systematically reusing parts deemed scrap or waste "without regard for safety," according to the law firm.

The alleged numbers-fudging and unsafe practices were done in the service of meeting production quotas, the law firm said.

Tesla declined to address Tripp's tip to the SEC. The company fired him last month and filed a lawsuit against him, claiming he hacked its computer systems to steal company secrets and leaked false and damaging information to the press.

"He is someone who stole Tesla data through highly pernicious means and transferred that data to unknown amounts of third parties, all while making easily disprovable claims about the company in order to try to harm it," a Tesla spokesperson said earlier.

Claiming that Tesla inflated Model 3 numbers is "ridiculous," the spokesperson said earlier.

After setting up a manufacturing tent beside its Fremont factory, Tesla finally hit its 5,000-cars-per-week production target for the Model 3 last month, according to the company.

Tesla has previously denied any punctured batteries were ever used in Model 3s. "If there was even a sliver of doubt about whether a (battery) cell could pose a safety concern, it was not used in any vehicle," a Tesla spokesperson said earlier.

Tripp denies Tesla's claims about him.

Musk also took aim at Tripp in an email last month to employees, describing him, without naming him, as a disgruntled-employee-turned-"saboteur," according to CNBC.

Lawyer Stuart Meissner of Meissner Associates, who filed the SEC tip on behalf of Tripp, said he told the SEC that he believed Tesla sued Tripp and went on a PR blitz against him "in a calculated effort to ruin his reputation and silence him and other potential Tesla whistleblowers from coming forward."

The law firm in 2016 obtained a $22 million award from the SEC on behalf of a Monsanto whistleblower, the second-highest total whistleblower award by the commission.

___

(c)2018 the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

Visit the San Jose Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.) at www.mercurynews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News

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Financials ($)
Sales 2018 20 331 M
EBIT 2018 -417 M
Net income 2018 -1 525 M
Debt 2018 8 545 M
Yield 2018 -
P/E ratio 2018 -
P/E ratio 2019
EV / Sales 2018 2,81x
EV / Sales 2019 2,07x
Capitalization 48 612 M
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Mean consensus HOLD
Number of Analysts 25
Average target price 317 $
Spread / Average Target 11%
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Managers
NameTitle
Elon Reeve Musk Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Deepak Ahuja Chief Financial Officer
Jeffrey B. Straubel Chief Technology Officer
Gary Clark Chief Information Officer
Kimbal Musk Director
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