Electric vehicle startup Canoo’s CEO discloses SEC investigation

Electric-vehicle startup Canoo Inc. said it is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission, making it the third clean-energy auto startup to disclose a federal probe in the past year.

CEO Tony Aquila disclosed the probe Monday on a conference call with analysts after reporting earnings, but declined to take questions about the matter. He joined Canoo in October and abruptly replaced founder Ulrich Kranz last month.

“We recently received a notice from the SEC that they are conducting an investigation,” Aquila said. “They characterize the process as a fact-finding inquiry.”

Canoo has had turbulent times since announcing that it would go public by merging with special purpose acquisition company, or SPAC, Hennessey Capital Acquisition Corp. in a $2.4 billion deal last year.

Its shares have plummeted 66 percent from a high of $22 in December. The stock slipped as much as 6.6 percent in after-hours trading, falling to as low as $7.05.

The CEO characterized the probe as a potential obstacle, saying it is one of several EV startups that have attracted regulators’ attention. “EV SPACs are now facing some near-term headwinds, including the SEC’s interest in determination on how warrants are treated,” he said.

In the past year, EV startup peers Nikola Corp. and Lordstown Motors Inc. have also disclosed SEC investigations.

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