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Trevor Milton has more in common with Elon Musk than starting a major electric vehicle company named after inventor Nikola Tesla. He has now hired the same lawyers to defend him.
Terence Healy represented Musk and Brad Bondi advised Tesla Inc. when the Securities and Exchange Commission investigated the CEO of the electric car maker about his 2018 tweet claiming he had secured funding to privatize the company. They negotiated a settlement whereby Musk agreed to step down as chairman of Tesla and have someone monitor his tweets.
Bondi and Healy now defend the founder of Nikola Corp. against much more serious charges. Milton, who resigned from the company in September, faces criminal securities fraud charges from federal prosecutors who claim they misled investors about the company’s electric truck prototypes. He is also being sued by the SEC.
Some of the allegations against Milton also have to do with his social media presence, which he used to brag about new features and developments that prosecutors say had no basis in reality. The government cited a tweet from Milton from June 2020 that claimed Nikola would add a drinking fountain to his planned truck. According to prosecutors, Milton’s far-fetched claims led other Nikola executives to attempt to subdue their boss.
“Trevor Milton is innocent,” the lawyers said in a statement last week. “This is a new low in the government’s efforts to criminalize lawful business conduct. Every leader in America should be horrified.
A representative for Milton’s legal team declined to comment. Nikola also declined to comment and Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.
Healy, head of securities enforcement practices at Hughes Hubbard & Reed, previously worked at the SEC and the Department of Justice. Bondi, now a partner at Cahill Gordon & Reindel, has similar experience as an SEC attorney and former federal prosecutor. He is also the younger brother of former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
Milton also brought in Marc Mukasey, who is part of the team advising former President Donald Trump’s company in the criminal case recently brought against her by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
– With the help of Chris Dolmetsch, Greg Farrell and Ed Ludlow.
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