Nikola board member who helped company go public said proper due diligence of startup was done

DETROIT – A board member for Nikola Corp NKLA.O who helped the company go public earlier this year said on Thursday his firm was comfortable with the due diligence performed on the startup that has been called a “fraud” by a short seller.

“We were comfortable with the diligence we did,” Steve Girsky said during an appearance at a Financial Times conference. “We are still comfortable with the diligence we did.”

Nikola has come under attack from short-seller Hindenburg Research, which has alleged the company misled investors and large automakers over its technology in a scathing report that sent Nikola’s shares down. Nikola has rejected the accusations and threatened legal action.

Reports say the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are probing the claims against Nikola. Nikola previously said it had contacted the SEC and briefed the agency on its concerns regarding Hindenburg’s report.

Girsky is head of VectoIQ, which took Nikola public through a reverse merger with a special-purpose acquisition company earlier this year. He is the former vice chairman of General Motors Co GM.N, which earlier this month took an 11% stake in Nikola and said the companies would join forces to build electric pickup trucks and hydrogen fuel cell commercial tractor-trailers.

Girsky on Thursday said he would not comment in depth on the situation involving Hindenburg, but said VectoIQ studied Nikola deeply before closing its deal.

“We brought an army of people in here. We conducted a thorough process,” he said on the FT webcast. “Personally, I’ve driven those trucks four times. I’ve driven on electricity. I’ve driven on hydrogen. I think they’re awesome trucks.”

Nikola’s business model is focused more on building the hydrogen station ecosystem than the trucks themselves. “Frankly, the station concept is as powerful or more than the truck concept,” he said.

GM CEO Mary Barra said this week the Detroit automaker conducted proper due diligence before closing the deal.