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Tesla bear apologizes to clients after releasing inaccurate TSLA note

Gordon L. Johnson, an analyst from Vertical Research Group and an outspoken Tesla bear, issued an apology to his company’s clients on Wednesday, after he published a note containing inaccurate information about the electric car company.

Tesla is currently involved in a class-action lawsuit filed by two investors, Kurt Friedman and Uppili Srinivasan, who alleged that the company, CEO Elon Musk, current Chief Financial Officer Deepak Ahuja, and former CFO Jason Wheeler intentionally misled shareholders about the progress of Model 3 production last year. According to the plaintiffs, Tesla’s executives were aware that the electric car could not be mass produced by the end of 2017. Despite this, Musk and the company as a whole allegedly made “false and misleading statements” about the company’s capability to produce 5,000 Model 3 per week by the end of the year. The plaintiffs noted that the negative market reaction to Tesla’s missed Model 3 goal has hurt their investments.

A hearing for the class-action lawsuit is scheduled for August 31, 2018. Tesla has filed a motion to dismiss the case, especially considering that the company did admit in October 2017 that the Model 3’s production ramp was behind schedule. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer will hear arguments from both plaintiffs and defendants on the upcoming hearing. On July 11, the plaintiffs of the class-action lawsuit wrote a memo calling on Judge Breyer to not dismiss the case. Part of the plaintiffs’ memo, which could be viewed below, was a section reiterating their case against Tesla.

“Defendants concede the material falsity of Defendant Musk’s August 2, 2017 statement conveying then current facts, about ‘a gigantic machine producing—That’s meant for 5,000 vehicles a week and it’s producing a few hundred vehicles a week.’” 

These statements, which were part of the memo, were an argument from the plaintiffs of the case. Amidst the stream of negative articles being directed at the electric car maker, some of the company’s staunch critics shared the plaintiffs’ request to the judge on social media. Considering the phrasing of the plaintiff’s memo, some Tesla bears believed that the company had admitted to misleading investors about Model 3 production. Tesla, for its part, noted in a statement to Barron’s that the assertion it admitted to any wrongdoing was “a complete lie.”

Vertical Research Group analyst Gordon L. Johnson, a rather aggressive Tesla bear (as seen in his debate with Tesla bull Trip Chowdhry from Global Equities Research), opted to write a note based on the plaintiffs’ memo to the judge. Similar to other critics on Twitter, Johnson framed his narrative on the assumption that Tesla had admitted to misleading investors. His note was headlined as “TSLA may have Admitted to Actionably False Statements.” As it became evident that he had committed an error, Johnson opted to correct his note, revising his note with a headline stating “ERRATUM.” Johnson also included an apology in his revision.

“We apologize for the inconvenience,” he wrote.

As Tesla heads into its Q2 2018 earnings call, the company’s stock (NASDAQ:TSLA) continues to exhibit volatility, though it recently received votes of confidence from its supporters from Wall Street. Together with Baird analyst Ben Kallo, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas, and Consumer Edge Research’s James Albertine, Nomura Instinet analyst Romit Shah also issued a favorable note about Tesla. Shah reiterated the firm’s Buy rating on the electric car maker’s stock, placing a price target of $450.

“We expect improving fundamentals in Q3, consisting of a step-function up in revenue growth and positive operating leverage, driving shares higher. If Tesla can execute to plan, we believe that the narrative around bankruptcy risk will go away, thereby reducing short interest and driving the stock higher,” Shah wrote.

As of writing, Tesla stock is trading up 1.24% at $301.11 per share.

Disclosure: I have no ownership in shares of TSLA and have no plans to initiate any positions within 72 hours.

Tesla bear apologizes to clients after releasing inaccurate TSLA note
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