Let It Not Be Another Theranos!

Yesterday I had an engaging discussion with my students about the numerous corporate governance failures present in the Theranos saga.

The learnings in Theranos are countless. A young CEO with a powerful storytelling strategy that deceived everyone: from prestigious independent board members, sophisticated investors and well-known strategic partners, to employees, the media and even patients.

To my surprise, today I came across the coverage in various news outlets regarding a report released by short-seller Hinderburg Research alleging that electric truck maker Nikola is a fraud built on dozens of false statements by its Founder Trevor Milton. Reading more about the allegations, I could not avoid having a flashback to Theranos given certain similarities, especially around transparency.

It must be said though, that I see some elements that give me comfort that this will not be a repeat:

• Nikola is a publicly-traded company, which subjects it to more stringent corporate governance requirements that Theranos was ever subject to, having been privately-held.

General Motors recently received 11 % ownership of Nikola and the right to nominate one Nikola Board member, as part of a strategic partnership, which should give it more visibility and control over the company, which Walgreens never had with Theranos.

•The roles of CEO and Chairman are not held by the same person, as was the case in Theranos, which brings more independence to the decision-making process.

• The allegations are not being released by a disinterested journalist doing his job (as occured in Theranos), but by a short-seller which motivation may well be manipulating the Nikola stock.

Nevertheless, I would not be inclined to pre-order a Nikola Badger at this point until more information comes to light.


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