Throughout 2016, as Tesla prepped the launch of the all-electric Model 3 sedan, the automaker simultaneously dealt with a formal probe by the Securities and Exchange Commission over the all-electric sedan. That's what research firm Probes Reporter found out in documents it obtained from the US SEC this week.
No enforcement action was taken, the records show, but it's the existence of the investigation wasn't known until now. A spokesperson for Tesla didn't respond to a request for comment, though we'll update this post if we hear back.
The document shows that the SEC conducted a nearly year-long investigation of Tesla Motors that focused on the Model 3. The investigation, Probes Reporter found, focused particularly on a report from a Golden Sachs analyst that went public just hours ahead of a $US2 ($3) billion stock offering from Tesla in May 2016. Goldman was a lead underwriter of the stock offering.
In a subpoena dated June 15, 2016, the SEC asked Tesla to turn over documents:
sufficient to identify all Persons who assisted with, were involved in, or had knowledge of the content of the May 18, 2016 analyst report issued by Goldman, Sachs & Co. concerning Tesla, including their full names, titles, roles and responsibilities, telephone numbers, email addresses, and office locations
The subpoena also asked for documents pertaining to reservations for the Model 3, production times, refunds requested and processed, how deposits for the Model 3 will be used, and cancellations. (You can read through the entire file obtained by Probes Reporter here.)
The upshot is, the SEC believed it had information that showed possible violations of the Securities Act and Exchange Act. In a June 7 filing, the SEC said Tesla "may have been or may be making false statements of material fact or failing to disclose material facts concerning" the Model 3.
But ultimately, in May, the SEC recommended no enforcement action to be taken. The agency, however, said the notice shouldn't be construed to mean Tesla "has been exonerated or that no action may ultimately result from the staff's investigation."
Probes Reporter said the SEC's response to its Freedom of Information Act request said that other records were exempt from disclosure "on law enforcement grounds." The research firm suggested that could mean there's "at least one other" unresolved SEC probe.
The SEC declined to comment.