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Paul and Nancy Pelosi attend the 2019 Time 100 Gala, on April 23, 2019. (AP) Paul and Nancy Pelosi attend the 2019 Time 100 Gala, on April 23, 2019. (AP)

Paul and Nancy Pelosi attend the 2019 Time 100 Gala, on April 23, 2019. (AP)

Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher February 2, 2021

Facebook post misrepresents Pelosi stock trade, Biden policy on electric vehicles

If Your Time is short

  • Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi, bought Tesla stock options — that is, the option to buy Tesla stock at a certain price — on Dec. 22. 

  • Nancy Pelosi publicly disclosed the purchase on Jan. 21, in line with federal law.

  • The purchase occurred more than a month before Biden’s Jan. 25 announcement that he plans to eventually make the federal fleet of vehicles electric. 

  • Biden had campaigned on a promise to steer the federal government toward buying more electric vehicles. 

Implying that Nancy Pelosi used insider information for personal gain, a post widely shared on Facebook claims that the House speaker bought $1.25 million in Tesla stock the day before President Joe Biden signed an executive order for all federal vehicles to be electric.

We looked at the substance and implications of the broadside against the California Democrat and found that it paints a misleading picture of the timing and nature of Pelosi’s and Biden’s actions.

The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The post gets several facts wrong. In short: 

The purchase — by Pelosi’s husband, Paul Pelosi — was not of stock in Tesla, the California-based maker of electric cars, but of options to buy Tesla stock. 

The options were bought more than a month before Biden announced his goal to eventually make the federal fleet electric, not the day before.

Biden has not ordered that the entire federal fleet be electric. He has directed federal agencies to move toward buying zero-emission vehicles.

And Biden’s intent to steer the government toward zero-emission vehicles was not inside information. It was among his campaign promises and a matter of public record well before he took office.

What the post says

The post shows photos of Pelosi and Biden, along with captions that use abbreviations for executive order and electric vehicles. 

The caption to the Pelosi photo is: "1/24/21 Nancy buys $1.25M in Tesla stock." 

The Biden photo caption says: "1/25/21 Joe signs EO for all fed vehicles to be EV!"

The headline above the images reads: "Wow! What are the odds of that? Talk about luck!! What are the odds?"

The poster wrote: "Wake up, realizing that it’s all about them making money, well (sic) restricting us."

The transaction and the timing

The post misstates the timing of both the securities transaction and the executive order. 

Featured Fact-check

Under the Ethics in Government Act, members of Congress must file periodic transaction reports when they buy or sell stock or other securities for any transaction that exceeds $1,000. (The requirement also covers transactions by a lawmaker’s spouse and dependent children.) Only a range of the value of a transaction must be disclosed. The reports must be filed within 30 days of when the member was notified of the transaction, and no later than 45 days after the transaction occurred.

Nancy Pelosi filed a report with the House dated Jan. 21 listing her husband’s securities transactions involving Tesla and a few other companies.

"The Speaker has no involvement or prior knowledge of these transactions," said her spokesman, Drew Hammill.

According to the report, on Dec. 22, Paul Pelosi bought 25 call options of Tesla stock for between $500,001 and $1 million. The options had a strike price of $500 and an expiration date of March 18, 2022. 

In other words, Paul Pelosi purchased the right to buy Tesla stock at $500 per share prior to the expiration date.

On Dec. 22, Tesla stock was trading at around $650, having climbed from less than $90 at the start of 2020, on a split-adjusted basis. At the time of this writing on Feb. 2, Tesla’s stock was trading at about $878 a share 

Nancy Pelosi’s report appears to be in line with what members of Congress are required to disclose.

Biden’s actions

During his run for president, Biden pledged to "make a major federal commitment to purchase clean vehicles for federal, state, tribal, postal, and local fleets." So his intent to steer the government toward an electric fleet was a matter of public record, though it didn’t take the form of an executive order until Jan. 27, a week after he took office. 

The post we’re checking alludes to an executive order Biden signed Jan. 25. That "Buy American" order does not mention any federal government purchases of electric vehicles. But in signing the order, Biden announced that he plans to eventually replace the government’s fleet of cars and trucks with electric vehicles assembled in the United States. He did not state a timeline, or mention any specific manufacturer. 

The Jan. 27 order, on climate, included a "federal clean electricity and vehicle procurement strategy." It directed "all available procurement authorities to achieve or facilitate … clean and zero-emission vehicles for Federal, State, local, and Tribal government fleets, including vehicles of the United States Postal Service."

The order specifically calls for "spurring the creation of union jobs" in the manufacture of those new vehicles. Tesla’s assembly workers in California are not unionized. 

No manufacturer of electric vehicles in the United States complies with the new "Buy American" and unionized labor provisions, according to Wired.

Replacing the federal fleet with American-produced EVs will be costly and take time, as only a handful of all-electric vehicle models are assembled in the United States, CNBC reported

Our ruling

An image shared on Facebook claims that Nancy Pelosi bought $1.25 million in Tesla stock the day before Biden signed an order "for all federal vehicles" to be electric, implying that she sought to profit from inside information about new government policies.

The House speaker did report transactions involving Tesla stock, but the post misrepresented the purchases and Biden’s policies to create the false impression that the transactions represented improper insider trading in Tesla shares.

The statement contains an element of truth, but ignores critical facts would give a different impression — our definition of Mostly False.

Our Sources

Facebook post, Jan. 31, 2021

Clerk of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi periodic transaction report, Jan. 21, 2021

CNBC, "Biden plans to replace government fleet with electric vehicles," Jan. 25, 2021

House of Representatives, periodic transaction report form, accessed Feb. 1, 2021

Email, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, Feb. 1, 2021

Reuters, "Biden vows to replace U.S. government fleet with electric vehicles," Jan. 25, 2021

Wired, "Biden Wants the Government to Run on EVs. It Won’t Be Easy," Feb. 1, 2021

The White House, "Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers," Jan. 25, 2021

Snopes, "Did Nancy Pelosi Invest Up to $1M in Tesla?", Feb. 1, 2021

ABC News, "Biden says he will replace the entire federal fleet with electric vehicles," Jan. 26, 2021 

Joe Biden campaign, energy plan, accessed Feb. 1, 2021

U.S. Office of Government Ethics, "Put or call option," accessed Feb. 1, 2021

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More by Tom Kertscher

Facebook post misrepresents Pelosi stock trade, Biden policy on electric vehicles

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