Oracle’s Glueck kicks back hard at Business Insider’s ‘deadly gamble’ article, Epic’s Faulkner (now with additional audio commentary)

Oracle is making great progress at the VA. And they want EHR interoperability. Epic doesn’t. Take that, Business Insider! And Judy Faulkner! Ken Glueck, an EVP at Oracle, authored an Oracle blog post (or at least one written under his name) that has generated much industry controversy. It first goes after Business Insider for daring to criticize the problems on the Oracle Cerner rollout that made it into five (count ’em, five) VA regional systems, calling it a ‘regurgitated story’. It calls the ‘deadly gamble’ headline ‘clickbait’, moves to patting itself on the back for the apparently non-problematic EHR rollout in about 3,900 locations in the DOD-Military Health System (partnering with Leidos), then swerves to stating the obvious in kicking around poor old, outdated VistA that meets very different needs and a massive population at the VA, and ends with a tap dance around the Oracle Cerner EHR problems at the VA citing all the progress that Oracle is making. It builds to a final slam fest, taking a minor quote in the article regarding why Oracle’s Larry Ellison preferred to buy Cerner–a ‘more relaxed approach to data privacy’–and expanding that to hard personal takedowns of Epic and its founder Judy Faulkner.  It then gets personal with BI, depicting the publication as “rooting against us” which he finds “invigorating”.

One can understand the craving for Oracle management to respond to BI. It’s a media outlet that apparently doesn’t have the most friendly relationship with Oracle. (But since when is that a feature of the Fourth Estate?) The article vividly takes Oracle to task, weaving together an accessible story out of dry facts and the many technical failures well documented by the VA, the OIG, and in Congressional hearings. It’s framed in the noble ambitions of Oracle’s founder Larry Ellison to transform healthcare which, in this Editor’s view, are treated sympathetically. The extremely well-read review last week of the BI article notes all, as well as the lack of contrast with the non-eventful DOD-Military Health System’s implementation and why it went largely according to plan, including the joint Lovell MHS/VA EHR. While this Editor tends to cast a gimlet eye at the clichéd mention of ‘transforming healthcare’, she still has some hope that progress in simplification, transparency, better-informed decisions, and truly intelligent assistance that enables human providers to heal their patients will be made in the next decade. And in that, she is on the side of Mr. Ellison as well as most founders and companies in health tech chronicled in TTA’s articles since 2005.

You have to give Mr. Glueck some credit for not holding back on how he really feels. Unfortunately, he was writing a corporate communication even if it was slotted in Oracle’s blog pages. He’s worked in corporate for decades and early in his career in government in the late Senator Joe Lieberman’s (D-CT) office. From the blunt view of a marketer, he should know better. Tone matters. And the frostier the tone, the better. If even a response is needed. Consider: is responding to this a smart move? What are the knock on effects?

In fact, it’s almost a textbook on how not to respond to negative press.

  • The headline sets up a straw man argumentBusiness Insider is not responsible for healthcare modernization, nor conceivably will ever be. It’s a cheap shot. 
  • The overly personal tone, written (one can guess) as he was seething about the BI article, undermines the response.
  • Nearly all of the same points could have been made in a concise, objective, fact-by-fact rebuttal that would be far more powerful in its restraint.
  • It meanders. It’s defensive. It’s easy to read into the Congressional Record or at the next hearing of the Veterans Affairs committee by a House member or Senator who’d like to see Oracle Cerner derailed at the VA. 
  • Where it truly goes off the rails is the personal invective directed at their competition. “…Epic’s CEO Judy Faulkner is the single biggest obstacle to EHR interoperability. She opposes interoperability because it threatens Epic’s franchise.” Mr. Glueck goes further in stating that Oracle enables provider collaboration across silos, while “Epic’s contracts expressly appropriate all patient EHR data as Epic’s own.” This is a fair criticism if true but maybe Epic’s hospital customers like it that way for their own reasons like security.

The blog comes across as barely restrained and defensive, especially versus Epic, the #1 EHR. When your EHR is losing ground to the competition, this is not a good look. It hands Epic another club to beat Oracle with. When your audience consists of professional hospital and practice executives, plus the VA and Congress, who right now aren’t overly happy with your EHR and are firing Oracle or considering it, this is almost guaranteed to backfire. It also gives a provocative article in a small online publication (ask Elon Musk) what Oracle doesn’t want–very long legs and a long shelf life. Plus now, there is even more reason for BI to beat up on Oracle.

Perhaps ignoring it, coupled with a sober internal communication (email/intranet/Slack) on the progress being made with the VA EHR (given that internal comms leak onto Reddit and similar), would have been the best response choices. And what about a conversation with BI? 

Like the old Sicilian saying about revenge, dishes like this should be served cold. 

Some interesting responses to the Oracle blog post are in HIStalk Reader Comments 5-31-24   Also Becker’s

And if anyone at Oracle wants a free tutorial in what not to do to respond to negative press, from the perspective of someone who’s had to deal with it in two industries…

Listen to Editor Donna provide extra commentary–a take on this take–on the Ken Glueck blog and this article. Now on Soundcloud (~18 minutes).

Must read: Oracle’s ‘deadly gamble’ on Cerner (new with audio file!)

Larry Ellison’s $28 billion bet on Cerner is drawn and quartered in this Must Read. If any further confirmation is needed that Cerner was the proverbial pig-in-poke for Ellison’s Big Vision of welding all that Cerner EHR data with Oracle’s massive technology, it is right here. Ashley Stewart and Blake Dodge, writing for Business Insider, do a masterful job of painting how badly Ellison and Oracle misjudged what they were getting into with what proved to be Cerner’s “broken and dysfunctional system” that in the VA implementation has been put on hold, with one exception, for a year or maybe more.

What Ellison thought he was buying in 2021 could be summarized by what he said at Oracle CloudWorld in fall 2023. FTA: What if, instead of guesswork, doctors could lean on generative AI to comb through a patient’s medical records, along with those of millions of other patients? With such a massive database, doctors could spot the warning signs of disease faster, reduce the need for trial and error, and make better-informed decisions about treatment. In other words, pump all that massive data into Oracle’s AI models and watch all that data, now going to waste, transform healthcare.

The problem was Cerner itself. Its EHR was not the wonder that Ellison saw circa 2005 when he first approached them and was rebuffed as a Silicon Valley interloper. It had become a system that wore lead boots compared to Epic. In the provider market, it was sinking to a distant #2. But one revelation in the article is that by 2020 Oracle saw Cerner as a must-have. As a smaller system, it was perceived as more interoperable between health systems, providers, and with third parties. Data would be more readily accessible. Pandemic-era relaxations on data sharing further loosened restrictions on access. The looseness appealed to Ellison and Company–and Cerner’s book of business would also help Oracle compete in cloud computing with Amazon (AWS) and Microsoft.

But Healthcare Reality dawned with the first implementations in the VA that started in 2020, a big win that turned into a rolling disaster that led to unknown queues, vanishing prescriptions, records, and appointments, and much more as chronicled here in the past four years, by Congressional investigations, and the VA’s OIG. No, the problems weren’t easily ‘fixable and addressable’ in Mike Sicilia’s (Oracle) words to Congress in hearings shortly after the acquisition closed. In fairly short order, the rollout came to a screeching halt after thousands of Oracle fixes, with only five systems implemented through last June, no end of disasters, patient deaths, and exacerbated illnesses. Other than the Lovell/MHS joint facility March rollout, there will be no further installations planned by the VA until the next fiscal year that starts in October. The most optimistic timeline for resumption is by end of this calendar year. As Congress is making clear, without proof of improved performance par with VistA in the current systems, do not hold your breath for any new ones.

An additional revelation in the article is that over time, VistA had become so customized to each VA medical center that Cerner could never meet those demands expected by the staff. It stopped trying, leading to more dissatisfaction. Perhaps that standardization looks good at the 40,000 foot level, but there were reasons for the customizations based on the veteran population and practice. Things that took two minutes in VistA now took ten in Cerner–if you were lucky. In the closed VistA system, those customizations were passed around other centers and regions–in VA-speak, Veterans Integrated Services Networks or VISNs. (Editor’s note: recalling from one of her former companies, any IT vendor implementing a system VISN by VISN soon learned about each one’s unique demands at multiple levels.)

“Oracle is still learning what they have actually acquired from Cerner,” according to an Oracle executive quoted in the article. The VA has become a ‘shackle’ trapping the Ellisonian Grand Vision of Oracle’s Transforming Healthcare–in time for him to enjoy his victory. Cerner’s slide to a distant #2 has reduced All That Data that made Cerner worth $28 billion, adding to a crushing debt load that this Editor and others noted in 2022. Layoffs and freezes haven’t made much difference, but have led to the loss of experienced Cerner support. The VA failures and drain of resources to fix it, the vacuum in support, and technical problems have led to, in a Providence system executive’s words, the perception that Cerner is ‘circling the drain’. And perception becomes reality. Health systems are choosing the costly route of moving now rather than later. The article mentions two major systems defecting to Epic, Intermountain and UPMC, but they are only two out of the 12 that announced in 2023. 

The narrative succeeds in bringing together many threads, but most of all in bringing to life the dry facts of Cerner’s many patient failures in the VA, including the individual deaths from the unknown queues [TTA 18 Mar 2023] and the human story of the Two Charlies–Charlie Bourg (himself affected by the unknown queue) and Charlie Monroe, both veterans near Spokane’s Mann-Grandstaff VA medical center. They advocate for veteran patients affected by the Cerner EHR’s many flaws.

One of the flaws not mentioned is Cerner’s odd lack of concentration on training criticized by Congress in 2023 [TTA 19 Apr 2023]. Another sequel or extension to this article could delve into the DOD-Military Health System’s implementation, a Leidos-Cerner project that has had few of the reported problems of Cerner Millenium in the VA. This was quoted by a former VA official as a ‘terrible decision’ that knocked onto the VA in implementing into a much larger and more complex healthcare system. Hat tip to HIStalk 5/22/24

Editor’s Closing Note: A wise doctor told me once that most errors in practice are made at the beginning and at the end of one’s career. In business, your Editor has seen this parallel happen time and time again. Even the smartest of chairmen and CEOs, when they stay too long at the fair, often make poor decisions. Is it age? Illness? No one left with the courage to tell them no, this is a bad move, this isn’t working? I think of the last years of Centene’s leader Michael Neidorff, 25 years in leadership, ousted by an activist shareholder. Mark Bertolini of Aetna, shoved aside from the merger with CVS he engineered. Frank Lorenzo, who created the biggest airline combine ever, Texas Air Corporation. Even legends like Larry Ellison at 79 may not be what they were. In attempting to capstone his storied career, and with the best of intentions in transforming the broken, dysfunctional healthcare system, has he made a gamble that could bring Oracle to its knees?

Listen (for the first time!) to Editor Donna read this article with extra asides and comments (plus a small flub or two). Now on Soundcloud.

Our view from last week: Is Oracle Health’s Big Vision smacking into the wall of Healthcare Reality? Their business says so. 

Is Oracle Health’s Big Vision smacking into the wall of Healthcare Reality? Their business says so.

Once again, ‘healthcare transformation’ may be A Bridge Too Far but definitely a Long Slog for Oracle. A highly critical Bloomberg report details the flat and deteriorating business of Oracle Health, the division that includes the former Cerner. Since their much-touted acquisition of Cerner two years ago [TTA 14 June 2022], Oracle has not righted the basic health system EHR business. Revenue and clients have stagnated with high-profile losses, versus the massive gains predicted only two years ago, and Cerner falling further behind the hospital/practice EHR leader, Epic, with a 26% hospital bed share compared to Epic’s 48%. 

  • Bloomberg’s internal sources indicated that sales reached $5.9 billion in 2023, but are projected to slip to $5.6 billion both in 2024 and 2025.
  • In 2023, 12 accounts did not renew and announced they would replace Cerner with Epic. These are major names such as Northwell Health and Boston Children’s Hospital. In 2022, clients with a combined capacity of 4,658 patients were lost, according to KLAS Research. This is despite the fact that EHRs are not moved lightly. The average commitment is 15 years or more since the ramp-up is taxing and costs are astronomical.
  • Common complaints cited by KLAS center around Cerner’s legacy software and the Cerner transition: tracking clinical revenue, tool integration, technical glitches, and uncertainty or worsened service associated with the Oracle takeover.Boston moved to improve data exchange with surrounding hospitals and Northwell for Epic’s set of better integrated tools.

Oracle laid off many involved with customer accounts. The consulting and sales area laid off 3,000 in one year from March 2023 to February 2024, according to Bloomberg. These may have been as early as May 2023. In June 2023, there were reports that the VA’s pause of Cerner Millenium for at least a year coupled with the completion of MHS Genesis triggered 500 to 1,200 additional Federal service area layoffs plus rescinded job offers. The layoff total may be as high as 4,200 on a pre-acquisition employee base of 28,000, with salaries and promotions frozen. On the executive level, Don Johnson, who once was a successor to CEO Larry Ellison, departed from leading Oracle Health and AI. Reportedly, Dr. David Feinberg, who briefly headed Cerner prior to the sale, is now a ‘ceremonial’ chairman of Oracle Health. [TTA 18 May 2023] Dr. Feinberg also joined Aegis Ventures as a senior advisor and is on Humana’s board, which sounds like a winddown of Oracle responsibilities [TTA 11 Jan]. The layoffs and freezes have improved the former Cerner’s operating margin from 22% to 33%, but not as high as Oracle’s 46% margin.

Since the acquisition and chairman Larry Ellison’s Big Vision promises of creating ‘healthcare transformation’ and ‘better information’, Oracle’s challenge with Cerner has been not only to move their legacy systems onto the cloud but also to integrate Cerner systems with Oracle–and Oracle may have underestimated that complexity as well.

  • Oracle has stated that most customers have been moved to Oracle’s cloud, but inside sources have qualified them as Oracle Health’s smallest and least technically complicated. The big systems with their own domains have yet to be touched.
  • Cerner applications had about 8,000 bugs to be fixed.
  • On the people management/integration side, there are substantial differences between ‘legacy’ Cerner and Oracle people, often centering around not understanding the nuances and complexities inherent in healthcare–as well as compensation and working conditions. This Editor, who as a marketer has had to deal peripherally with ‘legacy systems’ (to the point of tears) through acquisitions on the payer side, knows this is common.

Where Oracle has had success with Cerner’s EHR is in international markets less saturated with EHRs or with home-grown systems, winning contracts in Sweden, the UK and Saudi Arabia. As previously noted, they are a supplier for the NHS. Oracle has moved forward on population health software,  modernizing Cerner’s revenue-tracking tool, and planning for an AI-assisted ambient listening voice note system. 

What remains up in the air is if the VA will restart Millenium transitioning from VistA this year. Oracle is pushing to restart it and its revenue stream this summer as projected last year [TTA 18 May 2023]. This counters VA Secretary Denis McDonough’s testimony last month to the House Veterans Affairs Committee that the VA does not intend to resume deploying it until FY 2025, which does not start until October 2024, and use carryover funding. This FY, there are no funds or plans allocated except for Lovell FHCC, which seems to be going well. The contract, already tightened last April with multiple metrics, demanded improvements, oversight, and annual renewals, is running into more Congressional headwinds this year. Three senators on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee called for the VA “to use the opportunity the new contract structure provides to re-review terms and add additional accountability and oversight provisions to protect veterans and taxpayers.” pointing to the OIG report issued in March. The contract is up for renewal this coming Thursday 16 May. NextGov, Becker’s

The final burden on Oracle–only alluded to in the article–is the debt load undertaken to finance the $28 billion Cerner acquisition. A complex set of bridge and term loans were used to finance the buy [TTA 27 Oct 2022]. At the time, Oracle’s $90 billion debt load was one of the largest in tech. While Oracle’s stock value has been buoyed by its investments in AI, in the current environment, this debt load becomes suspect. Yahoo Finance, Quartz

This ‘n’ that: HHS settles *2017* ransomware breach, Carbon Health lays off 114 in restructuring, why oh why VC General Catalyst wants a $3B health system, when Larry Met Billy, a lexicon of workplace terms

It only took five years to levy a $100,000 fine. Doctors’ Management Services, a Massachusetts-based medical management company, had a ransomware attack back in 2017 that exposed 206,695 individuals to personal health information violations. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is charged with actually enforcing penalties and remedies for data breaches, decided that Doctors’ management hadn’t done quite enough to protect their patients. The cyberattack was identified in December 2018, but Doctors’ didn’t report the breach to OCR until April 2019. Their network had been infected with GandCrab ransomware. After determining various protection failures, HHS put them on a three-year corrective plan to protect their data and collected the $100,000 fine, their very first. But still, nearly four years later? And with breaches, ransomware, and hacking going on every day?  Healthcare Dive

Another Covid unicorn comes down with a bang. Carbon Health, a 13-state network of primary care clinics along with virtual care in areas such as mental health, says ‘bye’ to 114 or 5% of its staff. It grew and got funded big during Covid as it set up testing and vaccine initiatives, achieving a valuation of $3 billion. In 2021, Covid accounted for 60% of their revenue, but as it waned in 2022, so did their revenue by 23%. To date, their funding has been over $622 million, with $100 million in January in a Series D funded by CVS Health Ventures. This isn’t their first big layoff–200 staffers said goodbye in January as well as 250 in mid-2022 which was about 8%. Becker’s

General Catalyst’s newest venture into Health Transformation Land, HATco, The Health Assurance Transformation Corporation, is in the market for a health system in the “$1 billion to $3 billion” range. Not too small to not have an impact in their communities, and large enough to have capabilities around value-based care plus a track record of excellence. This is to create their ‘blueprint’ for healthcare transformation. Interested parties should contact CEO Marc Harrison, MD. Their other plans to get there were announced at HLTH. As to why…General Catalyst has had a lot of experience with companies, and perhaps they feel they have a Better Way to Get There. Becker’s, TTA 10 Oct.

Of Note…The second wealthiest executive in healthcare, Oracle’s Larry Ellison, wasn’t too busy to hang out with the third wealthiest on Forbes’ list, former senator and HCA honcho Bill Frist, in Nashville at the inaugural Frist Cressey Ventures Forum. Ellison is also investing in a 70-acre, $1.35 billion campus on Nashville’s riverfront. It’s always nice to make nice with the neighbors, especially when they have major holdings in a large health corporation. Becker’s

To wrap up This ‘N’ That, Becker’s has a useful article that will keep you au courant on those workplace terms you see on places like LinkedIn. ‘Quiet quitting’, so popular in 2021-2, has had its day with layoffs leading to real ‘quitting’, leaving behind ‘grumpy stayers’ who try to get away with ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’. ‘Coffee badging’ was a new one on your Editor. The rest are catchy phrases for things as old as time in the workplace.

Oracle’s Big Healthcare Transformation: it’s all about ‘better information’ (sigh) (updated)

“Better information is the key to transforming healthcare,” he [Larry Ellison] said. “Better information will allow doctors to deliver better patient outcomes. Better information will allow public health officials to develop much better public health policy and it will fundamentally lower healthcare costs overall.”

Larry Ellison’s Big Vision, now that Oracle’s acquired Cerner, has a distinct and familiar ring. ‘Better information’ was also the mantra of IBM Watson Health. It’s the meme of every healthcare company, from education to data analytics, that better and more accessible information means better outcomes and lower cost of care. For those of us who’ve hung our caps in healthcare for the past decade, it’s the dawning promise that like Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, is on the top of the beautiful hill, within our sight, yet out of our reach. But we keep trying.

Mr. Ellison is smarter and richer than most of us, so let’s defer to his Vision and what seem to be the most obvious obstacles to interoperability and mass scaling:

  • A national health record database, in an open standards-based system, will be built by Oracle. It will sit on top and pull information from thousands of hospital and presumably practice-based EHRs. Once completed, in the non-defined future, a hospital or practice anywhere would be able to access patient information.
    • Obstacles: data fragmentation, health records not in an EHR, cooperation in providing information, security, Federal/state privacy regulations, and buy-in from other EHRs which were at last count 500 or so with hospitals running at least 5-10 different EMRs/EHRs.
  • From the national database, disease-specific research using anonymized data from it and AI-enabled analysis
    • This is potentially a big winner, as smaller models are already in use, e.g. between Ronin, a clinical decision support solution, and MD Anderson to create a disease-specific AI model for cancer patients in treatment. 
    • Gathering, anonymizing, and securing the data are the main challenges, plus those above

Big Visions don’t thrill us the way they used to because other than the newest among us, the new Big Promises sound all too familiar. It’s not that long ago that first EHRs, then health information exchanges were supposed to be the clearinghouses to make information interoperable. 21st Century Cures, which allowed members/patients to obtain their health information from payers and providers to the individual, was supposed to fix that portability gap in its next phase. The government also has its own national data exchange framework as part of the Cures Act. So what about that?

Updated. Lest this Editor be considered an outlier, a skeptic, and a general killjoy, there are other smart people far better grounded in IT Reality who are equally skeptical. Patrick Murta, who is now with BehaVR but formerly was co-chief architect for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s FHIR at Scale Taskforce (FAST), is quoted in FierceHealthcare. “Saying that you’re going to build a national database and bringing that to fruition is a different story. This particular model is going to face the same barriers that have been there for many years and there’s no easy path to overcome those barriers quickly.” His opinion is echoed by at least three others in the article. In short, Oracle is actually behind other vendors in the data interoperability area and the goal to knit together thousands of systems that don’t talk to each other may be admirable, but is likely to be the classic Bridge Too Far.

Tony Blair and his nonprofit Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, already partners with Oracle to use its cloud technology to tackle health issues.

Oracle did not answer queries on timing, cost, and access. 

The cynics among us will need no reminder that Cerner is having interoperability issues between DOD’s MHS Genesis and VA’s Cerner Millenium, both national systems that Oracle has now inherited.

In the short term, Cerner will be updated to include a built-in voice interface, more telehealth capabilities, and disease-specific AI models. It’s nice to have the short-term needs recognized while the Big Vision is being built. Healthcare Dive, FierceHealthcare

The Theranos Story, ch. 38: take our shares, but don’t sue us; Murdoch writes it off

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]What? They’re not toast yet? Far from it. We’ve missed the impossibly twisty soap opera called Theranos, and our latest episode holds to the previous high standard.

CEO and controlling shareholder Elizabeth Holmes is offering shareholders, supposedly from her personal holdings, about two additional shares for each one purchased. This has been offered to the investors in the 2014-2015 $600 million round who bought in at about $15-17/share (ch. 27), such as Cox and Bechtel. The deal dilutes their share cost to about $5. The caveat? Don’t sue Theranos. According to the Wall Street Journal‘s report (Yahoo Finance as WSJ is paywalled), it was approved by Theranos’s board in February, and most investors have ‘signaled that they will sign off on it’. Others are the family of US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, the Waltons of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and John Elkann, the Italian industrialist who controls Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV.

One who is washing his hands is News Corp. executive chairman Rupert Murdoch. He reached a separate settlement for a nominal sum–rumored to be $1–to sell back his shares and legally write off his $125 million investment.

Others are not so lucky. Early investors before that round are not included. (more…)

The Theranos Story, ch. 34: It’s a conspiracy! It’s a vendetta!

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Updated Well, that is what one of her major investors says, and he would know! Just when we thought that a week would go by with not a peep about Theranos, we get three. Peeps, that is.

First, the Conspiracy Theory. This is being propounded by early Theranos investor Tim Draper of Silicon Valley VC Draper Fisher Jurvetson. It was all John Carreyrou’s ‘strange vendetta’ against her, to wit: “Elizabeth is the victim of a witch hunt.” The Wall Street Journal reporter set off a cascade of press coverage that compelled, nay, forced Federal regulators (FDA, CMS, SEC, DOJ) and state counterparts to go after Theranos and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Mr Draper bluntly accused Mr Carreyrou of doing it for money; “the guy is getting $4 million to continue this charade”, referring to the advance on his book proposal “Bad Blood”. The most nauseating part of the Ars Technica interview is this mock-libertarian rejoinder from Mr Draper: “It’s the press creating a series of events that negatively impact technology, progress and our economy.”

So it was all a mistake, an illusion–there was nothing significantly wrong with the Edison Lab, or Theranos’ business practices! (Hat tip to Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations)

Mr Draper perhaps did not consider that Mr Carreyrou’s reporting blew up the $100 million investment of the WSJ‘s owner, Rupert Murdoch (Ch. 27), not just DFJ’s. And SafewayWalgreens, Larry Ellison, Cox Enterprises, Bechtel Group….

Second, the belated reporting of deficiencies at the Scottsdale lab found by CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) on 29 September. According to the Wall Street Journal report (co-authored by Mr Carreyrou), “Theranos responded to the inspection findings in Arizona with a plan to correct its lab deficiencies, but the lab regulator in November rejected the plan and proposed sanctions for the Arizona lab as well.”  This preceded the closing of all labs and the ‘refocusing’ of Theranos on the miniLab. Their general counsel stated, “After months of careful consideration, and prior to CMS’s unannounced inspection in Arizona, Theranos decided to close its laboratories.” Usually, these CMS reports are issued after 90 days. Theranos is appealing the sanctions arising from the California lab inspection with an administrative law judge, which include lab license revocation and a two-year ban on Ms Holmes from blood-testing operations.

Third, Theranos announced an eight-person Technology Advisory Board (TAB) to be led by Dr. Channing Robertson and Howie Rosen. The academics, executives, and entrepreneurs will be charged with “reviewing specific Theranos technology initiatives associated with product development, design and deployment” as well as four other mandates. Analogies concerning horses, roads and the status of barn doors come to mind. Release.

And finally another Theranos Washington connection, besides new SecDef and ‘Warrior Monk’ James Mattis, now an alumnus. It seems that the vetting of Betsy DeVos, nominee for Secretary of the Department of Education, uncovered that she has an investment in Theranos of more than $1 million. However, the Office of Government Ethics also reported her whopping earnings of less than $201. Since others like Rupert Murdoch, Bechtel, Walgreens, Cox, and others ponied up $50 to $100 million, hers is a mere bag of shells by comparison. MedCityNews, who has dubbed it the ‘As Theranos Turns’ soap opera. Hat tip to Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations.

See here for the 33 previous TTA chapters in this Continuing, Consistently Amazing Saga, including Arizona’s lawyering up for a prospective Theranos lawsuit (Ch. 33) the firing of 155 remaining staff (Ch. 32), the resignation of now-DOD Secretary General Mattis from the BOD (Ch. 31), and Theranos’ annus horribilis (Ch. 30).

The Theranos Story, ch. 27: investor ‘whales’ surface in class action lawsuit news

[grow_thumb image=”” thumb_width=”150″ /]Don’t jump…you may land on one of them! In the Bottomless Well that is The Unicorn Losing Its Horn, The Transubstantiation of a $9 bn valuation to $9, to mix up a Whole Lotta Metaphors, the latest is that Certain Big Investors (‘whales’ in Vegas Lingo) and at least one minnow have lost their shirts, or maybe their sleeves and cuff links.

The first is via a class action lawsuit filed Monday against Theranos in San Francisco Federal Court by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, seeking to represent potentially hundreds of purchasers of Theranos shares from July 29, 2013, through October 5, 2016 .

According to the Wall Street Journal, the charges relate to “false and misleading claims about its operations and technology while soliciting money from investors.” Hagens Berman is representing Silicon Valley investment banker Robert Colman, who is the retired co-founder of Robertson Stephens & Co. (a legendary, now defunct, investment bank specializing in tech that blew up after the dot-com bust). He invested through a VC fund, Lucas Venture Group, who participated in Theranos’ Series G funding in late 2013. Lucas was invited to invest $15 million, and their principals had personal ties to Elizabeth Holmes, according to TechCrunch. The second plaintiff, Hilary Taubman-Dye, purchased Theranos shares at $19/share on SharesPost Inc., an online exchange for shares of private companies, in August 2015. Her claim is that she tried to cancel it after the Wall Street Journal exposé in October, but the purchase went through in December after Theranos, Elizabeth Holmes and an unidentified third party refused to buy back the shares as a secondary transaction. TechCrunch identified her as a “longtime technical recruiter who now works in investor relations for a TV production company” which means that her investment was likely no bag of shells for her. Their respective investments are not disclosed.

The second, according to a second article in the Journal, comes from the usual ‘sources familiar with the matter’ and papers filed by Theranos in Delaware and Arizona. These include some very atypical startup investors, such as Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. and family-controlled Cox Enterprises, at $100 million each in the 2014-15 round when shares were valued at $17/each, and an undisclosed amount by Riley Bechtel of Bechtel Group, who was later named to the board of directors. Other, more typical Silicon Valley investments date back to when Theranos was the more pedestrianly named Real Time Cures in 2004 and the shares were 15 cents each:

  • Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison
  • VCs from firms such as ATA Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson. The latter’s Tim Draper and his daughter (!) have been quite critical of anyone, especially John Carreyrou of the WSJ, claiming that Ms Holmes was perhaps mistaken in her scientific and business practices. (Partner Jurvetson in reports has expressed a more ‘que será, será’ attitude.) (more…)