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

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 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened an investigation into the company.

The SEC launched the probe in response to a whistleblower complaint from a former Tesla employee, which alleged the company failed to properly notify its shareholders and the public of fire risks associated with its solar panel systems, according to Reuters, which cited communications between the agency and the whistleblower 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.

The SEC is proceeding with an investigation after Steven Henkes, a former Tesla employee, filed a whistleblower complaint in 2019. Henkes, who worked as a solar field quality manager, 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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