By Nivedita Balu
(Reuters) - The U.S. securities regulator has asked Lucid Group Inc for documents related to an investigation into its blank-check deal, joining a growing list of companies that have come under scrutiny for their merger with shell entities.
Shares of the luxury electric-car maker fell as much as 19.5% on Monday after it disclosed it had received a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Dec. 3.
"The investigation appears to concern the business combination between the Company (Churchill Capital Corp. IV) and Atieva Inc and certain projections and statements," Lucid said in a regulatory filing https://bit.ly/32TtoSE.
Lucid's deal with veteran dealmaker Michael Klein's blank-check firm earlier this year gave the combined company a pro-forma equity value of $24 billion, making it one of the biggest deals with Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs).
The SEC declined to comment on its action against Lucid.
Market listing via SPAC route has become popular among electric-vehicle (EV) makers that have a vision but no prototype in an already capital intensive industry.
"The problem is a lot of these companies that have taken this approach are not far enough along to really be considered a viable company," Sam Abuelsamid, auto analyst at Guidehouse Insights, said.
Shares in other EV startups that went public through SPAC deals, including Canoo Inc and Faraday Future Inc and Fisker Inc , also took a hit on Monday.
Fisker said it was not under investigation for its SPAC merger last year. Canoo, Ree Automotive and Faraday could not be reached for a comment.
As EV makers rush to beef up production and try to catch up with Tesla Inc, many have come under scrutiny by federal agencies and regulators.
Nikola is working with regulators to pay a penalty and settle a charge against founder Trevor Milton, while Lordstown Motors is being investigated for vehicle pre-orders and its SPAC merger.
"Ever since the statements made by Nikola's founder and former CEO resulted in three federal criminal fraud charges, new EV manufacturers were bound to face greater scrutiny," CFRA analyst Garrett Nelson said.
Meanwhile, the SEC has opened an investigation into Tesla following a whistleblower complaint on fire risks associated with solar panel system defects.
(Reporting by Nivedita Balu and Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Additional reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington and Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel and Arun Koyyur)