Oil Services Firm Linked to Phony Elon Musk E-Mail Starts Probe

1469597122_tesla musk

Elon Musk, chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc.

Photographer: Troy Harvey/Bloomberg
  • Quest Integrity confirms target of Tesla suit is its employee
  • Firm says claim of anti-Tesla plot by oil industry is ‘absurd’

Quest Integrity Group LLC said it’s looking into a claim that its finance chief impersonated Elon Musk in an e-mail to get inside information on Tesla Motors Inc., while calling “absurd” the electric car maker’s allegation of an oil industry conspiracy against alternative energy firms.

Tesla alleged in a lawsuit Wednesday that Quest executive Todd Katz used the e-mail ElonTesla@yahoo.com to try last month to prompt Tesla’s chief financial officer to give him more detailed data than the the company released in announcing its second-quarter financial results.

The Seattle-based oil pipeline engineering and inspection firm said Thursday it had started an internal investigation in response to the complaint filed in California state court in San Jose.

“However, it is clear that unsubstantiated allegations of an alleged conspiracy among Quest Integrity, Team Industrial Services or our major oil company clients are absurd,” the company’s general counsel, Butch Bouchard, said in an e-mail.

Energy Efficient

Tesla said in its complaint that the e-mail was part of an oil industry effort to undermine the push for energy efficient transportation alternatives.

“In recent years, oil companies have spent billions of dollars on legislative efforts and campaigns aimed at blocking progress toward electric cars and other sustainable energy solutions in the United States and abroad," Tesla said.

Tesla declined to comment on Quest Integrity’s statement.

In its complaint, Tesla said the e-mail received Aug. 3 by its CFO, Jason Wheeler, was signed “em.” The e-mail read, “Why you so cautious w Q3/4 guidance on call. What is ur best guess as to where we actually come in on q3/4 deliverables. Honest best guess. no bs.”

The Palo Alto, California-based company had reported a quarterly loss of $293 million based on generally accepted accounting principles, or GAAP. Using adjusted figures, it said it lost $150 million, or $1.06 per share.

Tesla closed at $200.42 Thursday, up 2 percent.

Tesla’s shares have fallen 16.5 percent this year, as the safety of the company’s Autopilot feature has been questioned following crashes. Some investors also have misgivings about the company’s pending acquisition of money-losing solar company SolarCity Corp. Tesla co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk’s woes deepened this month with the explosion of one of his SpaceX rockets on the launch pad.

The case is Tesla Motors Inc. v. Katz, 16CV299916, California Superior Court, County of Santa Clara (San Jose).

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