Tesla Motors appears to be out of danger from an investigation with the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, the automaker’s management may still be under scrutiny, according to Probes Reporter.
Tesla removed from watch list
The website reported today that Tesla is no longer on its SEC watch list. Late last year, the folks at Probes Reporter said they found evidence of an undisclosed SEC investigation. The website noted that when its reporters requested a response from a Tesla spokesperson, they received a “non-answer.” The spokesperson said they don’t comment on rumors.
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Naturally, this sort of answer does raise questions about whether there really was an investigation going on. The spokesperson essentially dodged the question about why the SEC might deny access to public records about Tesla and cite law enforcement reasons for it.
Probes Reporter file an appeal with the SEC regarding those documents, and the agency responded with, “The investigative files identified by the FOIA Officer do not contain records responsive to your request.”
In other words, it means Tesla, as a company, is not being investigated by the SEC, at least not currently.
Other potential problems for Tesla
However, the website also examined the way the SEC worded its response to other responses it has received regarding other companies in the past. It alleges that there could be a probe involving an entity or individual involved with the automaker “in which Tesla Motors was incidentally mentioned or tangentially listed.”
The report indicates that the SEC has backed off from its position in its response to previous appeals on other companies but that it did not do so in Tesla’s case. There was nothing saying that there was an error, although no investigation was ever confirmed. Also there hasn’t been an “investigative file on a now-closed investigation” sent back to the FOIA office to be processed.
What might be going on at Tesla?
Probes Reporter recalls a couple of reports about one of Tesla’s top directors that it believes could potentially be related to the undisclosed probe at the automaker. In April 2013, The Wall Street Journal reported about possible alleged insider trading in connection with the use of SEC-required trading plans that much be set up by insiders of public companies. Among those listed was Antonio J. Gracias, a board member of Tesla Motors and CEO of private equity firm Valor Equity Partners LP.
Later there was another report from The Wall Street Journal that indicated Tesla had received subpoenas requesting documents related to some of Gracias’ trades. Gracias himself was also said to have gotten a subpoena in connection with trades of Tesla shares by a major shareholder just days before shares plunged.
Tesla called out
Probes Reporter notes that the reports about Gracias might have nothing to do with the SEC’s responses to their requests for information on Tesla. The website states they’re not accusing Tesla or anyone of wrongdoing. Instead, they just note that the SEC has not released information and that it’s possible investors might not even care about whatever is going on.
However, the folks at Probes Reporter do want Gracias and his firm to release information about whether they are involved in any investigation. They also point out that nothing about what happened to the reported subpoenas has ever been released.
Additionally, if they’re concerns about Gracias end up having any merit, they think he should be ousted from Tesla’s board. They’re also calling for Tesla to address the questions they have asked regarding the potential investigation and reported subpoenas.
“In our opinion, if a public company becomes aware of law enforcement activity involving allegations of insider trading in any company’s shares by one of its directors, especially in it’s [sic] own shares; and, if such a company chooses to keep such information from investors, then your best course may be to run fast, and run far,” Probes Reporter summed it all up. “This approach to corporate transparency does not establish a sense of trust.”
Shares of Tesla Motors slipped as much as 3% during regular trading hours today.