As long time readers of this blog will probably be aware, one of my non-fiction areas of interest is business scandals or frauds of various kinds. I’ve written about Bad Blood – and the TV series The Dropout based on it – as well as We Work and Empire of Pain. And over the last couple of weeks I’ve been reading about the collapse of the FTX crypto exchange, which is absolutely going to be the next big book and TV series on the subject – not the least of which is because the guy who wrote The Big Short was been embedded there for several months ahead of the collapse (which should probably have been a warning sign.
Anyway, I’m a big podcast listener, and on my way back from Essex in mid-October, there was an episode of Vox’s Today Explained called Nikola (not Tesla) about the conviction for fraud of the founder of an electric truck start up. It was fascinating and the main interviewee mentioned that he had his own podcast coming out about the case – and so off I went. And that’s what today’s Not a Book post is about – the latest series of the Wall Street Journal’s podcast Bad Bets, which is about Trevor Milton and the rise and fall of Nikola.
The basic outline is this: in mid October, a federal jury found 40-year-old Trevor Milton guilty of defrauding investors over statements he made about his company Nikola. Prosecutors said that he had lied about the techical achievements of the company to make it sound like their hydrogen powered lorries (or trucks if you are American) were closer to being production ready than they really were.
In Bad Bets, reporter Ben Foldy takes you through Milton’s life and career and unravels the story behind that conviction. And oh boy is it fascinating. I’m trying not to give too much away about any of it, but this is the intersection of my interest in big buiness failures and stuff about religion in America and particularly the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints aka the Mormons. I’ve posted a fair bit about the latter before – whether it’s books like Educated or series like Murder Among the Mormons and Lularich – and this fits into that oevre quite neatly. If you like any of them or any of the books above (or both) then this might well be the six part series you need to binge while you’re doing whatever it is you do while listening to podcasts.
Happy Sunday everyone.