Electric car startup Faraday Future is circling the drain (again), with the company confirming Tuesday that co-founder Nick Sampson has departed and most employees will be furloughed. At the same time, embattled CEO Jia Yueting is dealing with serious problems of his own: a Chinese investor is trying to convince a California judge to make Jia repay a $100 million debt he incurred back in China.
Early last month, Chinese investment firm Shanghai Qichengyueming Investment Partnership Enterprise sued Jia in federal court, saying it’s entitled to a $100 million award it received in a Chinese arbitration case it filed against Jia over past-due debts.
Back in May, according to the complaint, the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission determined that Jia is liable for “certain loans that had not been repaid” to date, and ordered him to repay SQ an amount that exceeds $100 million. The investment firm says it’s legally entitled to recoup the debt from Jia in U.S. court, under federal law.
Finding Jia hasn’t been easy, based on SQ Investment’s filings in court.
The person retained by SQ investment to serve Jia with its lawsuit said in a statement that, on Sept. 7, she visited Faraday’s warehouse in Gardena, California, and told a security guard “I had a delivery for Jia Yueting.”
There, she met a Faraday employee who apparently never heard of Jia.
He directed me to the receiving bay. I went in and told the man who approached me that I had a ‘delivery’ for Jia Yueting. He had no idea who that was. A second man then approached and said “Whatcha got?” I said “a delivery for Jia Yueting”. This guy said “Okay, we can take it.” The first guy looked confused. The second guy said to first guy “He is the owner of the company, you dope.” The second guy said to me “No one knows him by that name cuz we all just call him “YT”. I asked if “YT” was in. The second guy said no but he could take the package. I told him I needed “YT” to sign. The second guy said “We take all his packages.” Then, he jokingly patted the first guy on the shoulder and said “He could be “YT” for the day and sign”. I chuckled and said I would come back.
Later that day, she visited a mansion in Ranchos Palos Verde—which Jalopnik highlighted last year in an investigation about Faraday—but no one answered. She went next door to another house Jia purportedly owns, but “no one answered there either,” the employee wrote.
So a few days later, she returned to the Faraday building and gave the documents in a sealed envelope to a Faraday warehouse employee named Jose Perales, who—according to the statement—signed for the delivery. A day later, she said she mailed another set of documents to Jia at the Faraday warehouse.
But Jia argued on Friday in a court filing that SQ’s attempt to serve him the suit wasn’t legit under California law, before slipping in a breathless description of Faraday.
“At the time, Mr. Perales was a shipping clerk employed in a warehouse operated by Faraday & Future, Inc. (“FF”), a pioneer in electric, autonomous cars,” the filing said. “Although Mr. Jia is the CEO of FF, he and Mr. Perales have never met. At the time of the attempted service (i.e., as of September 11, 2018), Mr. Perales had been employed by FF for only two months, and he did not even know who Mr. Jia was.”
Jia claims that his lawyer met on Oct. 2 to discuss whether the service attempt was sufficient, and his attorney says he offered to waive service. SQ’s attorney, however, declined the offer, “insisting that service was valid,” the filing says. SQ has yet to respond in court, and the firm’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Legal minutiae aside, it’s yet another blemish for Faraday amid an already bruising few months. Sampson, the startup’s co-founder, resigned on Tuesday, claiming in an email that the company is “effectively insolvent” and unable to pay its debts, while The Verge reported that more staff were placed on furlough. After a promising return in 2018, in which Faraday hoped to begin production of its first car with the backing of a now-scuttled major investment deal, the company’s situation looks mighty grim.
A spokesperson for Faraday didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. (We’ll update the post if we hear back.)
UPDATE: A Faraday Future spokesperson got back to us:
We (FF) cannot confirm the validity of this petition nor can we comment on any pending litigation or arbitration against YT at this time.