The USA securities regulator has opened an investigation into Tesla Inc over a whistleblower grievance that the corporate did not correctly notify its shareholders and the general public of fireplace dangers related to photo voltaic panel glitches throughout a number of years, based on a letter from the company.

The probe has raised regulatory stress on the world’s most respected automaker, which already faces a federal security probe into accidents involving its driver assistant programs. Issues about fires from Tesla photo voltaic programs have been printed beforehand, however that is the primary report of an investigation by the securities regulator.

The US Securities and Change Fee disclosed the Tesla probe in response to a Freedom of Data Act request by Steven Henkes, a former Tesla subject high quality supervisor, who filed a whistleblower grievance on the photo voltaic programs in 2019 and requested the company for details about the report.

“We’ve got confirmed with Division of Enforcement employees that the investigation from which you search data remains to be lively and ongoing,” the SEC stated in a September 24 response to Henkes, declining his request to supply its data. The SEC official stated the letter shouldn’t be taken as a sign by the company that violations of regulation had occurred. The Reuters information company independently confirmed the SEC letter was professional.

Henkes, a former Toyota Motor high quality division supervisor, was fired from Tesla in August 2020 and he sued Tesla claiming the dismissal was in retaliation for elevating security considerations. Tesla didn’t reply to Reuters’s emailed questions, whereas the SEC declined to remark.

Within the SEC grievance, Henkes stated Tesla and SolarCity, which it acquired in 2016, didn’t disclose its “legal responsibility and publicity to property harm, threat of damage of customers, fireplace and so forth to shareholders” prior and after the acquisition.

Tesla additionally did not notify its clients that faulty electrical connectors might result in fires, based on the grievance.

Tesla advised shoppers that it wanted to conduct upkeep on the photo voltaic panel system to keep away from a failure that might shut down the system. It didn’t warn of fireplace dangers, provide momentary shutdown to mitigate threat, or report the issues to regulators, Henkes stated.

Tesla shares fell 5.5 p.c at $960.25 on Monday after the Reuters report.


Greater than 60,000 residential clients within the US and 500 authorities and business accounts had been affected by the difficulty, based on his lawsuit filed in November final yr towards Tesla Vitality over wrongful termination.

It’s not clear what number of of these stay after Tesla’s remediation programme.

Henkes, a longtime supervisor at Toyota’s North American high quality division, moved to SolarCity as a high quality engineer in 2016, months earlier than Tesla acquired SolarCity. After the acquisition, his duties modified and he grew to become conscious of the widespread drawback, he advised Reuters.

Henkes, within the SEC grievance, stated he advised Tesla administration that Tesla must shut down the fire-prone photo voltaic programs, report back to security regulators and notify shoppers. When his calls had been ignored, he proceeded to file complaints with regulators.

“The highest lawyer cautioned any communication of this concern to the general public as a detriment to the Tesla repute. For me that is prison,” he stated within the SEC grievance.

Litigation and considerations over defective connectors and Tesla photo voltaic system points stretch again a number of years. Walmart in a 2019 lawsuit towards Tesla stated the latter’s roof photo voltaic system led to seven retailer fires. Tesla denied the allegations and the 2 settled.

Enterprise Insider reported Tesla’s programme to interchange faulty photo voltaic panel elements in 2019.

A number of residential clients or their insurers have sued Tesla and elements provider Amphenol over fires associated to their photo voltaic programs, based on paperwork supplied by authorized transparency group PlainSite.

Henkes additionally filed a grievance with the US Client Product Security Fee, which CNBC reported this yr was investigating the case. CPSC and Amphenol didn’t reply to request for remark.