Nikola CEO Mark Russell Says Trevor Milton Was Prone to Exaggerate

Nikola CEO Mark Russell Says Trevor Milton Was Vulnerable to Exaggerate

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Nikola Corp.’s chief government officer informed a jury he discovered solely after becoming a member of the corporate that its debut electrical truck had neither a gas-powered turbine nor a gas cell when founder Trevor Milton unveiled it.

Milton, who’s on trial for allegedly mendacity to buyers about Nikola’s progress, was susceptible to exaggerate, CEO Mark Russell informed the jurors Sept. 19 in federal courtroom in Manhattan.

Underneath questioning by the prosecution, Russell mentioned he warned Milton that as the highest government he “must be cautious” along with his remarks. He informed the courtroom that the 2 agreed Russell would be part of Nikola, initially as president, provided that he would turn into chief government when it went public.

After the corporate listed its shares in June 2020, Russell testified, Milton “would say or do one thing that I might see and I might have issues about,” and he would remind the founder that “his public statements would equate to a press launch or securities submitting.”

The outgoing CEO’s testimony got here within the second week of Milton’s trial on securities and wire fraud prices. Accused of duping buyers by making inoperable merchandise look totally practical and of mendacity concerning the firm’s expertise and partnerships, Milton faces a most jail time period of 25 years if convicted of probably the most critical cost.

The protection has known as the case “a prosecution by distortion,” arguing Milton was simply following the corporate’s advertising plan and by no means mentioned something he didn’t consider to be true.

Russell joined Nikola’s administration staff in February 2019, six months after stepping down as president and chief working officer of metal merchandise producer and automotive provider Worthington Industries Inc. He was shortly promoted to CEO simply earlier than Nikola’s 2020 itemizing.

On the identical time, Milton gave up the CEO place and have become Nikola’s government chairman, solely to resign from the board abruptly as scrutiny of the corporate intensified.

Russell’s becoming a member of Nikola was one thing of a reunion with Milton. The 2 had labored collectively briefly at Worthington, which had acquired considered one of Milton’s earlier startups. Russell testified that Milton had resigned from Worthington, telling him that company life wasn’t for him and that he was going to start out a enterprise to construct the truck of the longer term.

It was Russell’s understanding that Milton had been engaged on a natural-gas turbine truck, he informed the jury. However on becoming a member of Nikola, Russell found that its launch truck, unveiled in December 2016, was lacking the essential elements, he mentioned.

Russell introduced his retirement final month and will probably be succeeded by trade veteran Michael Lohscheller, who has served as Nikola’s president since February. Russell will step down by Jan. 1.

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