Tesla shares fall into bear market territory after SEC reportedly opens probe into solar panel defects

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SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk gestures during a conversation at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, June 13, 2019.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Shares of Tesla slumped more than 3% in early trading Monday after Reuters reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into the company.

Reuters said the SEC launched the probe in response to a former Tesla employee’s whistleblower complaint that alleged the company failed to properly notify its shareholders and the public of fire risks associated with its solar panel systems. The Reuters report cited communications between the agency and the whistleblower, Steven Henkes, dated Sept. 24.

The SEC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

News of the SEC probe sent Tesla shares more than 20% off their recent 52-week high on Nov. 4, meaning they are in a bear market.

Henkes, who worked as a solar field quality manager for Tesla, filed a whistleblower complaint in 2019. He was fired in 2020 and sued Tesla, alleging he was dismissed in retaliation for raising safety concerns.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is also probing the automaker after Henkes filed a complaint with the agency, CNBC previously reported.

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