Trevor Milton CEO of Nikola
Massimo Pinca | Reuters
Nikola announced early Monday that founder Trevor Milton is voluntarily stepping down from his role as chairman and board member.
The electric vehicle company said the board had accepted Milton's resignation, adding that Stephen Girsky, former General Motors vice chairman and a member of the Nikola board of directors, had been appointed chairman of the board effective immediately.
"Nikola is really in my blood and always will be, and the focus should be on the company and its world-changing mission, not me," Milton said in a statement. "So I made the difficult decision to reach out to the board of directors and voluntarily resign as Executive Chairman. Founding Nikola and growing it into a company that changes transportation for the better and helps protect our world's climate was an incredible honor . "
The announcement comes after the short-selling firm Hindenburg Research accused Nikola of fraud. The company pushed back the allegations, saying the report contained "dozen" inaccurate allegations. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice are reportedly investigating allegations that the company misled investors.
Hindenburg alleged Milton made false claims about Nikola’s technology to help build and secure partnerships with automakers.
In a tweet early Monday, Milton said, "I intend to defend myself against false allegations made against me by outside critics."
GM recently acquired an 11% stake in the company and announced that it will produce Nikolas electric pickup for hydrogen fuel cells, the Badger, by the end of 2022. Last week, GM CEO Mary Barra said the automaker had done "reasonable due diligence" on the $ 2 billion commissioning deal for the electric vehicle.
Nikola has been extremely volatile this year, rising from $ 13 in early May to a current 52-week high of $ 93.99 in June. Nasdaq-traded stocks were trading at $ 34.19 on Friday.
The company's average volume for the last 10 trading days was 53.2 million shares, although only about 361 million shares are in circulation.
Mark Russell, Nikola CEO, said the company remains committed to its goals and creates value for shareholders.
"Our priorities remain unchanged and, working with our partners, we are focused on executing our strategic initiatives and laying the groundwork to become a vertically integrated provider of zero-emission transportation solutions," Russell said in a statement.