Tesla looks like Lehman Brothers, short-seller David Einhorn says
David Einhorn, the hedge fund manager and noted Tesla short-seller, on Friday likened the embattled electric-car maker to doomed bank Lehman Brothers just before its collapse.
Einhorn, who is best known for betting against Lehman Brothers before it crumbled during the 2008 financial crisis, argued that Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent “erratic behavior” can be explained by higher-than-expected production costs for his flagship Model 3 sedan, which have forced the company to raise prices.
“Like Lehman, we think the deception is about to catch up to TSLA,” Einhorn wrote in a quarterly letter from his fund, Greenlight Capital, according to Bloomberg. “Elon Musk’s erratic behavior suggests that he sees it the same way.”
Musk has repeatedly clashed with Tesla short-sellers in recent months and cited pressure from investors with short positions as a key factor in his aborted pitch to take the company private. The Tesla CEO recently reached a settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which had charged Musk with making false statements when he claimed to have “funding secured” for the go-private bid.
Einhorn argued that Tesla’s recent activity mirrors that of Lehman Brothers, noting that “Lehman threatened short-sellers, refused to raise capital (it even bought back stock), and management publicly suggested it would go private” in the days before its collapse.
“[Musk] can’t make the car without losing too much money and he can’t bring himself to cancel the program and refund everyone’s deposits," Einhorn wrote.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Musk personally taunted Einhorn last August, sending the hedge fund manager a stack of shorts after a prolonged Tesla stock rally. In Friday’s letter, Einhorn said his short position on Tesla was Greenlight’s second-biggest winner in the third quarter.
Tesla shares fell more than 5 percent in trading Friday after Musk taunted the SEC on Twitter, deriding the agency as the “Shortseller Enrichment Commission.”