The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating Tesla over how it handled and perhaps failed to disclose previously reported fire risks with its solar power systems.
Walmart filed a lawsuit against Tesla in 2019 over fires that began with solar power systems installed at its stores. It was revealed in the complaint that a problem with a certain component caused the fire. Tesla and Walmart eventually came to an agreement, but it became clear that the issue wasn’t restricted to solar power systems installed at Walmart.
Tesla has had some difficulties with older SolarCity solar installations, according to CEO Elon Musk’s deposition as part of the lawsuit over Tesla’s SolarCity acquisition. Tesla has a Project Titan initiative to examine every solar installation and see if a component from a vendor needs to be changed because of a flaw.
Through a freedom of information act request, Steven Henkes, a previous Tesla field quality manager, was able to confirm that the SEC had begun an investigation into the issue.
“We have confirmed with Division of Enforcement staff that the investigation from which you seek records is still active and ongoing,” the SEC said in a Sept. 24 response to Henkes, declining his request to provide its records. The SEC official said the letter should not be taken as an indication by the agency that violations of law had occurred. Reuters was able to confirm the response.
According to Henkes, the problem affects perhaps 60,000 residential Tesla solar customers and about 500 commercial and government users. When he learned of the issue, the former employee claims that he informed Tesla management to shut down the faulty system and inform consumers and authorities, but Tesla took a different course of action.
Henkes claims that Tesla neglected to inform consumers about the fire safety concerns. He says he was let go in 2020, presumably as a result of his allegations. He is suing Tesla for wrongful termination, according to court documents.
However, the most recent information is that the SEC is actively looking into it.