#sec

Whistleblowing against fraud up 16x

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In May 2011 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) introduced a new whistleblower program under Section 92 of the Dodd-Frank Act. This was partly in response to its much publicised failure to investigate the US$50bn Bernard L. Madoff Ponzi scheme despite being made aware of it multiple times by a whistle-blower, Mr Harry Markopolos, since 2000.

Markopolos wrote in his November 7, 2005 submission to the SEC,

“Scenario # 2 (Highly likely) Madoff Securities is the world’s largest Ponzi Scheme. In this case, there is no SEC reward payment due the whistle-blower so basically, I’m turning this case in because it’s the right thing to do. Far better that the SEC is proactive in shutting down a Ponzi Scheme of this size rather than reactive.”

The SEC now encourages whistle-blowing by offering sizable monetary awards (10 to 30% of the monetary sanctions collected). Successful enforcement actions as a result of whistleblowing have led to awards as high as US$50,000,000. As a result, the SEC has seen a 16 fold increase in claims over the last few years. The following charts are from the SEC.

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The SEC 2018 Whistleblowing Annual Report noted, “from program inception to end of Fiscal Year 2018, the SEC awarded over $326 million to 59 individuals.

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On March 19, 2018, the Commission announced two of its largest-ever whistleblower awards, with two individuals sharing a nearly $50 million joint award and another whistleblower receiving more than $33 million.

As CM has been saying since whistleblower protections were enacted, those willing to speak out have surged. One can’t come out with false claims. Unsubstantiated claims are not paid.

As mentioned in the previous post, CM believes that climate scientists need an SEC-style watchdog to prosecute fraudulent claims which cost taxpayers billions in the misappropriated allocation of funds. If they do not commit fraud, they face no risks. To date, no scientists have been jailed or fined for data manipulation. By bearing no financial risk or threat of jail time, climate scientists are free to do as they please.

If Extinction Rebellion or any other alarmist group want us to declare “climate emergencies” they should have no problem submitting to a regulatory framework that ensures confidence in the data to drive the debate and allocate resources. CM guesses that they would howl in protest because after all emotion is more important that data. Torn asunder their antics would be undone by reality.

Can we please get some adults in the room?

Here is a picture from the angelic pig-tailed climate strike goddess Greta Thunberg’s Twitter feed calling for another global school strike. The climate change activists are really at the point of maximum desperation. Kids are now being weaponized to fight climate change because the supposed adults in the room have done such a woeful prosecuting the case to the heretic non-believers.

It is hard to speak to those who dismiss one as a knuckle dragger from the start. What is lost on alarmists is that skeptics merely wish to be presented with facts and figures not sanctimonious finger wagging. In 99.9% of cases, when politely asking to be provided with facts, it ultimately leads to ad hominem attacks. “Your kids will thank you for it” is an argument often used as a condescending way to end a debate before it has even started. Others resort to saying skepticism comes from regrading quack websites resourced by the fossil fuel lobbyists, When CM asks alarmists about whether they have concerns over the multiple cases of fraud committed by scientists from the very (often government) bodies they spruik, not one has voiced issues with their ethics. At that point they have lost CM.

If alarmists can’t admit the fraud committed from their own side, it shows that they are utterly indoctrinated. 1+1=3. Fraud is fraud. CM has often argued that climate scientists face absolutely zero repercussions for peddling falsehoods. None. Think of the penalties handled out to the financial sector. There has been much malfeasance committed in the last few decades that have resulted in humungous penalties.

WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers was sentenced to 25 years based on nine counts of conspiracy, securities fraud and false regulatory filings to the tune of $11bn.

Enron’s former CEO Jeffrey Skilling was convicted on 35 counts of fraud, insider trading and other crimes related to Enron and sentenced to 24 years prison and fined $45 million.

Madoff got 150 years for his $65bn Ponzi scheme, Allen Stanford received 110 years jail for his $7bn fraud.

Yet when the scientific community commits fraudulent offences, they’re not even brought to trial. Nothing. Even worse the alarmists are only too happy to wheel out the very same scientists who have made dud predictions and push them as experts in their field.

How are billions in taxpayer funds that bail out Wall St any different from billions of taxpayer funded adventures into redundant climate change white elephants based of manipulated scientific claims any different?

CM reckons that if climate scientists faced steep fines and penalties for committing data fraud we would quickly work out we had way more than 12 years to live. Why not provide an amnesty period for scientists to come clean on any manipulation without facing any prosecution? After the date they would face stiff treatment. That is the only way to kill this industry at the source.

If scientists were forced to come clean with the truth, we would find that all of the grossly inaccurate models predicting gloom and doom were shown up for what they really were. Empty rhetoric.

Maybe the secret to solving the climate emergency is child’s play after all? Make the rules of malfeasance so transparent that even a 5 year old can understand.

If we look at the whistleblowing rules introduced by the SEC in 2011, it offered the whistleblower 10-30% of the monies saved through fraud as a reward. Surprise, surprise whistleblowing claims have shot up 16-fold since the rule’s introduction. In 2011 only 334 claims were made. In 2012, 3,001 were made. In 2014, 3,620. In 2018 it was 5,282. A total of $168mn was paid out to 13 individual whistleblowers.

Given so many scientists are probably aware of the manipulation that lies within the ranks, they have far more opportunity to dob in their crooked colleagues and collect a massive pay day.

No need for #ClimateEmergency. As the Australian Democrats used to say as an election slogan, “keep the bastards honest!”

Greatest Corporate Showman on Earth

Tesla’s 1Q 2019 results were dreadful. CM has long held that Tesla is a basket case. The ever charismatic Elon Musk is trying to fan the flames of his company with dying embers. The question is where do we start on this diabolical 1Q report?

1. Musk started off with cash to speak to solvency. Tesla talks to $2.2bn in cash and equivalents. Down $1.5b, partly due to a $920m convertible repayment. Don’t forget Tesla has $6.5bn in recourse debt and $3.5bn in non-recourse debt. It has payables and accrued liabilities of another $5.5bn offset with receivables of just over $1bn.

2. Model S/X deliveries fell from 21,067 in 1Q 2018 to 12,091 in 1Q 2019. That’s -56% at the high margin premium car end. Musk claimed it was due to demand pull forward with a reduction in tax credits. Well he just proved that without credits, demand suffers appreciably.

Model 3 production was 3% higher on the quarter but deliveries were 20% lower. Note customer deposits total $768m, marginally down on the previous quarter. If Tesla starts to implode, customers have a right to get those credits back. Residual values aren’t holding as we discuss in pt.5.

3. Solar deployed -38% year on year

4. (Battery) Storage deployed -39%YoY

5. CM made it clear in point 11 of the 30 reasons why Tesla will be a bug on a windshield report,

The Tesla Residual Value Guarantee, while well intentioned carried risks that crucified the leasing arms of the Big 3. After the tech bubble collapsed at the turn of the century, do you remember the ‘Keep America Rolling’ programme, which was all about free financing for five years? While sales were helped along nicely, the reality was it stored up pain…Goldberg & Hegde’s Residual Value Risk and Insurance study in 2009 suggested on average 92% of cars returned to leasing companies recorded losses on return of up to 12%. Any company can guarantee the price of its used product in theory, the question is whether used car buyers will be willing to pay for it. Sadly Tesla does not get a say in what the consumer will be willing to pay.”

In the 1Q 2019 result, Musk admits that Tesla suffered $121m impairment on residual value guarantees (RVG). Is it any wonder they stopped this scheme. Now it’s payback time. There are $480mn worth of RVGs still on the balance sheet that are unlikely to have been marked to market values.

6. Level 5 autonomous driving is a pipe dream in the near term. 20+ years away. A fleet of Tesla taxis is an even bigger thought bubble. Regulation will put that on the back burner. The current level 2 systems have already shown significant short comings given the numerous beta testing deaths at the wheel of the Tesla auto pilot.

7. Musk is doing a stealth cash raise by putting a time limit on auto pilot upgrades. The question is when will the next cap raise come. His noise around Tesla taxis, Level 5 autonomous systems, Model Y all speak to the snake oil promises that he needs to distract investors from what is clearly going on.

8. His public spat with his biggest supplier, Panasonic, will not end well. Suppliers have to be on board with production expansion. Panasonic is cooling off its relationship. Musk publicly slapped the Japanese battery maker. It doesn’t augur well for the rest of the supply chain either to see these ructions

Peter DeLorenzo wrote the following with respect to Musk,

That this latest charade from Musk is yet another desperate act in an attempt at saving his floundering company is obvious. Where it differs from other Muskian braggadocio is the fact that he is insisting that his AV technology is safe for mass application and consumption. Sorry to disappoint all of the St. Elon acolytes out there, but this is the insane part…

…Unleashing a fleet of zombie Teslas on the streets of America curated by a notorious nanosecond-attention-span personality such as Musk is the quintessential definition of flat-out crazy. You can’t even squint hard enough to suggest that this is, in some way, shape, or form, rational thought. It’s a case of an intermittently brilliant mind that has wandered over the line into the Abyss of Darkness. A dangerous mind that is so obsessed with pushing his perpetually sinking car company into some sort of elevated stratosphere that he is willing to treat real people as so much collateral damage...

This country is 25 years away – at least – from widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles. Yes, there will be scaled deployment in limited, commercial applications primarily in urban centers over the next two decades, but driverless Teslas careening around less than two years from now? It is a recipe for disaster the likes of which simply defies calculation.”

All the reasons CM has disliked Tesla remain. It is so chronically overvalued. This stock will be lucky to be $100 by year end. Sadly the economy is slowing meaning it will be tougher to compete with more competition launching this year. China may give cause for some future hope but don’t bet on it.

The more Musk talks, the more desperate he is. Don’t forget he is not learning from SEC requests to lay off Twitter. His guidance in 1Q is lower than recent tweets suggesting appreciably higher targets. Tesla is a time bomb.

Tesla – Musk baits the regulator again?

Anton Wahlman on Seeking Alpha has reported that Tesla held a secret telephone conference call to a limited audience which apparently contradicted statements made earlier in the public domain. If true, from a pure compliance and governance perspective that would violate fair disclosure rules. It is surprising that given Elon Musk’s run ins with the SEC that shareholders would hope he’d look to avoid further investigation rather than taunt the regulator.

According to the call transcript, Tesla provided new profit/loss guidance to the select few on the call. Even more bizarre is that Deutsche Bank compliance apparently let its Tesla analyst publish a report on March 1 based on the contents of the call, including margin guidance on the $35,000 Model 3 which was not divulged to others.

CM has always held that Tesla is an amateur car maker. Luring owners to deposit a non refundable $2,500 for a $35,000 Model 3 smacks of a silent fund raising to keep the ship afloat.

The company recently admitted it would close much of its dealer network and move to mobile servicing. Cute in principal but unlikely to be sustainable. Mainstream makers know that dealer/service networks are vital to keeping customers connected. If large recalls need to be conducted, mobile units aren’t going to cut it.

None of the above really surprises. Owning Tesla is sort of like joining a cult. The preachings from the fearless leader are designed to keep the disciples fiercely loyal. However if the government gets enough evidence to gather the SWAT team it will swarm the compound. This company is not worth anything like $50bn. Grab your popcorn.

Musk flips the ‘bird’ at the SEC

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Tesla shareholders must wish Elon Musk would be as silent as his products. It seems the Tesla CEO has learnt nothing from his $20mn fine. Given that Tesla is still under investigation for other reporting  matters, it seems unprofessional to bait the SEC when shareholders want to see stability at the helm. Musk tweeted,

Just want to that the Shortseller Enrichment Commission is doing incredible work. And the name change is so on point!,”

Just further evidence this CEO has no wish to listen to his board or interact with them in a way that promotes best practice corporate governance. It’s still a one man band. The irony of the tweet is that the SEC’s leniency allowed him to stay at the top causing a 17% jump on the settlement.

Even worse Paragraph 13 of his settlement with the SEC requires him to seek board oversight of any public communications although has yet to be officially signed off by a judge.

In a twist or irony one shareholder tweeted back that he wasn’t just attacking the stock shorters  but the long only owners as well.

Tesla shares closed down 4.4% and indicated at $273 in the after market, a fitter 3% fall. At the start of the SEC decision last week the shares had traded as low as $267. In a sense Musk has been the Shortsellers Enrichment CEO not the SEC.

Musk to recover $1.2bn based on pre-market

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Musk stands to recover $1.25bn in wealth if the pre-market indications of Tesla prove correct. A $20mn fine from the SEC which effectively wiped $1.3bn of wealth will all but be restored. Is it just that investors think that nothing will change even if he isn’t chairman? Did the SEC fold to his star power or did they receive a free flame thrower to lighten the charge? While $20mn looked like a proper slap on the wrist he can shrug off the incident like it didn’t happen. All in all pretty impressive. He lives to fight another day.

Musk’s $20mn fine covered if Tesla shares jump 59 cents

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$20mn sounds like a lot. It is a lot. The SEC has struck a deal with Tesla’s Elon Musk which demands he steps down as chairman and hires two independent directors. Musk owns 33.7mn shares. Technically he would only require a 59c share price rise to cover his fine. Make it a dollar to cover taxes and transaction costs plus legal fees. In any event the fine is peanuts in the grand scheme of things.

To be honest, Tesla disciples will breathe a sigh of relief that their king still remains in the company and more importantly as the figure head. The question remains is whether a new chairman (from outside?) will see to it that the company is not just a one man band which has been painfully obvious with so many senior level defections. Too often the board has seemed to be an onerous burden for Musk in that his intergalactic brilliance shouldn’t require checks and balances.

Will a new chairman demand a thorough audit into business practices to date? It is likely that the SEC will expect a new chairman to lift the standards of the board to make sure that shareholders interests are properly decided with all directors heard. An independent audit should be viewed as the bare minimum. What would that unearth?

Tesla shares should bounce on this news and in aftermarket trading it is up. The question is how a new structure changes dynamics which reveal the short cuts and internal processes which have created so many reporting inconsistencies.