Tesla Accuses Executive in Lawsuit of Impersonating Musk

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Elon Musk.

Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg
  • Quest Integrity’s Katz said by Tesla to send deceptive e-mail
  • Carmaker sues over e-mail seeking non-public financial data

Tesla Motors Inc. sued a man it said was the chief financial officer of a firm that works for the oil industry, accusing him of trying to impersonate Elon Musk in an e-mail to get nonpublic data about the automaker.

When Tesla disclosed its second-quarter financial results Aug. 3, its finance chief, Jason Wheeler, received an e-mail from ElonTesla@yahoo.com requesting more detailed data than had been released earlier in the day, according to the lawsuit.

Tesla said in its complaint filed Wednesday in California state court that the e-mail came from Todd Katz, who Tesla said worked for Quest Integrity Group LLC. Through the deceptive e-mail, Katz sought to acquire “highly confidential and proprietary Tesla business information," according to a copy of the complaint provided by Tesla’s lawyer.

Katz didn’t immediately respond to phone messages left after regular business hours with Quest Integrity in Seattle.

The Palo Alto, California, maker of electric cars 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’s shares have fallen more than 18 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.

Tesla said the e-mail received by Wheeler was signed “em.” It 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.”

Tesla believes the e-mail was part of an oil industry effort to undermine Tesla’s push for energy efficient transportation alternatives, according to the complaint.

“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.

The case is Tesla Motors Inc. v. Katz, 16CV299916, Superior Court of the State of California, County of Santa Clara.

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