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Tesla’s 'deepening' FBI inquiry will be a hard case for investigators to prove, Wall Street analyst says

Published 10/29/2018, 09:45 AM
Updated 10/29/2018, 11:12 AM
© Mark Brake/Getty, Tesla CEO Elon Musk

A report from the Wall Street Journal on Friday that said Tesla is facing a "deepening criminal investigation" in regards to its public statements about Model 3 production ramp has been met with skepticism on Wall Street.

"We think it will be difficult for prosecutors to prove criminal wrongdoing," Ben Kallo, an analyst at Baird, said in a note to clients as reported by Bloomberg. Kallo, who has a bullish $411 price target for the stock, added that "investigators would need to find evidence TSLA made projections it knew would be impossible to achieve, which we believe is a high bar to meet."

Kallo also added that the article "largely recycled previously reported information," and that it finds "certain
aspects of the article suspect."

He wasn't the only Tesla bull skeptical of the Paper's reporting, which said late Friday that an FBI investigation is focused on Model 3 communications by Tesla as far back as early 2017, citing people "familiar with the matter." The company said it had received "no additional document requests" from the Department of Justice for "months," while supporters nearly immediately sought to connect the article with short sellers, or those investors betting against Tesla's stock price.

"Good question,” CEO Elon Musk added on twitter in response to a question asking "where is the SEC when the WSJ published old information purely meant to distort the stock and harm investors?"

Another vocal Tesla supporter, Ross Gerber of the Los Angeles firm Gerber Kawasaki, called the article questionable.

"You’ve got to wonder how much the media is being manipulated by Tesla shorts," he tweeted. "Of course as the stock breaks out they release some BS WSJ article. Mid day. Not questionable at all."

Shares of Tesla fell slightly following the Wall Street Journal's report Friday, but still managed to close in the green. The stock opened up more than 2% Monday morning following the bullish note from Baird.

Musk, who recently informed Tesla of his plans to purchase $20 million of the company's stock in the next available window, seemed to hint that the purchase could be made Monday in a tweet. Shortly after, he said he would be "signing off Twitter for a few days."

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