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Lawyers for the former boss of hydrogen truck start-up Nikola have argued he should not spend time in prison after being convicted of three counts of fraud, saying he “sees the world differently than most other people.” “.
Tuesday’s filing said a suspended sentence “will allow Trevor to remain at home with his family and serve his community,” noting that his wife is ill. He is scheduled to be sentenced on November 28th.
In the filing, Trevor Milton’s lawyers urged the judge to “resist any temptation” to compare his actions to those of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, another once-successful startup founder who was convicted of fraud.
“Where others see darkness, Trevor sees light,” the lawyers wrote. “Where others see despair, Trevor sees hope. Where others see impossibility, Trevor sees possibilities. Where others see problems, Trevor sees solutions.”
A jury convicted Milton, 41, in October 2022 of three counts of fraud. In any case, the maximum penalty is between 20 and 25 years in prison.
His hydrogen truck start-up, which went public during a blank-check boom, was once worth $30 billion, more than Ford. But its stock price collapsed amid allegations of fraud.
During the five-week trial, prosecutors called Milton “a fraudster” who used his profits from Nikola to buy Caribbean real estate and a private jet.
In the court filing, Milton’s lawyers said the former CEO “never did anything to hide what he did or said,” did not create “false” documents and “did not lie to his accountants, auditors or attorneys.” They added that many of Milton’s statements were inspired by his “deep emotional connection” to Nikola.
For this reason “some false information [he] “The actions taken were the result of his deep-rooted optimism and belief in Nikola and not any sinister motive or intent to harm retail investors,” they said.
Milton “grew up in the American West. . . “I am more adept at dealing with cattle and horses than I am at dealing with regulators and investors,” lawyers wrote. “Before this case began, he had only been in New York City for a few days in his entire life.”
His “lack of business and financial know-how” led him to ask Nikola’s chief financial officer to call the Nasdaq stock exchange on the day of the company’s listing and ask if it was “broken” because the stock had fallen, they added them added.
But Milton’s lawyers claimed the strategy of having him publicly promote the company was “conceived and advocated” by “more experienced” board members: Jeff Ubben, founder of the activist hedge fund Value Act, which had invested in Nikola, and a former chief executive of General Motors Steve Girsky. Ubben has since left Nikola’s board and ValueAct, while Girsky became Nikola’s chairman in August.
Milton’s lawyers said his “sentence began a long time ago” and that he felt “tremendous pain” from media coverage of his arrest and a podcast series examining his time at Nikola.
“The mere status of ‘convicted felon’ is therefore a serious blow and in this case constitutes a severe punishment – more than sufficient to meet the requirements of the law,” they added, pointing out that this gives him the status of a convicted felon It is not permitted to own a firearm – “a serious deprivation for a lifelong hunter/recreational hunter”.