(Reuters) – The US Securities and Exchange Commission has launched an investigation by Tesla Inc. into a complaint from a whistleblower that the company had not informed its shareholders and the public for several years about fire risks associated with defects in solar panel systems, according to a letter from the agency.
The probe increases the regulatory pressure on the world's most valuable automaker, which is already facing a federal accident safety probe involving its driver assistance system. Concerns about fires from Tesla's solar system have been published before, but this is the first report from the investigation of the securities regulator.
The SEC unveiled the Tesla probe in response to a request for a Freedom of Information Act from Steven Henkes, a former. Tesla's field quality manager, who filed a whistleblower complaint about solar systems in 2019 and asked the agency for information on the report.
"We have confirmed with the Division of Enforcement staff that the investigation from which you are seeking information is still ongoing and ongoing," the SEC said a reply on 24 September to Henkes and rejected his request to provide his records. The SEC said the letter should not be seen as an indication by the agency that violations of the law had occurred. Reuters was able to confirm the answer.
Mr. Henkes, a former quality division manager for Toyota Motor, was fired from Tesla in August 2020 and he sued Tesla, claiming that the dismissal was retaliation for causing safety problems. Tesla did not respond to Reuters emailed questions, while the SEC declined to comment.
In the SEC complaint, Mr. Henkes states that Tesla and SolarCity, which they acquired in 2016, did not disclose their "liability and exposure to property damage, risk of injury to users, fire, etc. to shareholders" before and after the acquisition.
Tesla also failed to notify its customers that Defective electrical contacts could lead to fires, according to the complaint.
Tesla told consumers that it needed to perform maintenance on the solar panel system to avoid a fault that could shut down the system. or reported the problems to regulators, Henkes said.
More than 60,000 private customers in the United States and 500 government and commercial accounts were affected by the problem, according to his lawsuit filed in November last year against Tesla Energy for wrongful termination. [19659002ItisnotclearhowmanyoftheseremainafterTesla'sclean-upprogram