Nikola Shares Plummet After Founder Milton Resigns

Plus, President Trump ok-ed the deal between Oracle and ByteDance for TikTok’s U.S. operations, bank stocks are down following a report detailing $2 trillion in transactions of possible money laundering, and Microsoft is buying the video game publisher of Fallout and The Elder Scrolls.

Stocks were lower to start Monday with the Dow dropping 737 points, or 2.7%. The S&P 500 fell 2.3%, while the Nasdaq traded 1.7% lower.

Ok-ish. President Donald Trump gave his blessing to Oracle for its bid to be the technology partner for TikTok’s U.S. operations, putting the social media platform on course to escape a U.S. ban imposed as part of Trump’s pressure campaign against China. “I approved the deal in concept,” Trump said to reporters over the weekend. “It’ll be a brand new company. It will have nothing to do with any outside land, any outside country, it will have nothing to do with China.” However, Trump said this morning that he would rescind his tentative blessing for the deal if TikTok-owner ByteDance retains control of the operation after the Beijing-based company said in a statement that it would retain an 80% stake in TikTok Global – the new entity that will be created as part of the Oracle deal. “They will have nothing to do with it, and if they do, we just won’t make the deal,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News today. “It’s going to be controlled, totally controlled by Oracle, and I guess they’re going public and they’re buying out the rest of it – they’re buying out a lot, and if we find that they don’t have total control then we’re not going to approve the deal.”

Bank stocks are down this morning amid reports that global banks have moved allegedly illicit funds over the past two decades despite warnings from U.S. officials. A new investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists said JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, and HSBC Holdings were among the global banks who “kept profiting from powerful and dangerous players.” The report details more than $2 trillion in transactions between 1999 and 2017 that were flagged by financial institutions’ internal compliance offers as possible money laundering or other criminal activity.”It’s the nature of banking: They move money,” said Jim Richards, former head of anti-money laundering at Wells Fargo and Bank of America. “So despite all the efforts to crack down on this, there’ll always be some criminal money moving through the banking system. It’s [a] very small portion of the trillions of dollars they handle every day.”

Nikola shares are down more than 21% this morning after founder Trevor Milton stepped down as executive chairman just ten days after short-seller Hindenburg Research accused the company of “an Ocean of Lies.” Stephen Girsky, a former vice chairman of General Motors and a member of Nikola’s board, has been appointed Nikola’s chairman, effective immediately. The Hindenburg report was released two days after Nikola announced a deal with GM that sent both company’s stocks surging higher. The report characterized Nikola as an “intricate fraud built on dozens of lies” by Milton. Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said of the news, “It’s a dark day for Nikola. Let’s call it like it is. Trevor leaving. I mean he’s a key part of the vision. This is a gut punch to the story, and definitely I think a white-knuckle period right here for Nikola bulls.”

As coronavirus deaths in the U.S. sit just under 200,000, former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said he expects the U.S. to experience “at least one more cycle” of the virus this coming fall and winter as cases continue to rise in the South and Midwest. Gottlieb also said he doesn’t believe there will be a vaccine available for general inoculation until the end of the second quarter or third quarter in 2021, contradicting President Trump’s claims that all Americans could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by April. “Hopefully this virus will start to dissipate in the summer,” next year, Gottlieb said, adding that the timing of vaccine availability “isn’t going to make that much of a difference because the virus won’t be transferring as readily by then.” Meanwhile, stimulus talks could become even more complicated after the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as her passing could lead to a bitter nomination process ahead of the election. Democrats and Republicans have been in a stalemate since July after provisions from the CARES Act expired. Cowen’s Washington strategist, Chris Krueger, said in a note that a new coronavirus stimulus bill appears “unlikely until post-Nov. 3 as the fight over Justice Ginsburg’s empty seat will consume D.C.”

And Microsoft announced today that it will buy ZeniMax Media for $7.5 billion in cash. ZeniMax owns video game publisher Bethesda, giving Microsoft access to a range of successful game franchises, including role-playing game series Fallout and The Elder Scrolls, as well as the Doom shooter series. “Gaming is the most expansive category in the entertainment industry, as people everywhere turn to gaming to connect, socialize and play with their friends,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. “With the addition of Bethesda, Microsoft will grow from 15 to 23 creative studio teams and will be adding Bethesda’s iconic franchises to Xbox Game Pass,” the company said in a statement. “This includes Microsoft’s intent to bring Bethesda’s future games into Xbox Game Pass the same day they launch on Xbox or PC, like Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios.”

Stocks We’re Watching

DarioHealth (NASDAQ: DRIO): DarioHealth announced today that it has entered into a sales and distribution partnership with HMC HealthWorks that will see HMC will incorporate DarioHealth’s digital therapeutics solution into its comprehensive care management programs. “We believe that this agreement with HMC is further validation of the progress we have made in transitioning to a leading provider of digital therapeutics solutions to payors, employers and other at risk entities with a desire to help their members manage their chronic conditions and improve their clinical outcomes,” said Rick Anderson, President and General Manager of North America at DarioHealth. “We are pleased to partner with HMC, who has a long history of providing innovative solutions to their customers. This agreement expands our distribution of our solutions and we are already building a pipeline within HMC’s vast client base, which we believe speaks to the tangible results that we bring to patients and payers alike.”

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