Judge Davila is speeding up the trial, adding hours and days–perhaps because the damning testimony has become depressingly similar. Were the investors sloppy, or did Theranos–and Holmes–deliberately deceive?
Documents and slideshows from Theranos glowed.
- The company faked memos and reports from both Pfizer and Schering-Plough, which was in the process of being acquired by Merck. Schering-Plough’s Constance Cullen said she found CEO Elizabeth Holmes’ answers to technical questions “cagey” and she was blocked by Holmes from asking questions of other Theranos employees.
- Presentations describing the Theranos lab capabilities were written in present, not future, tense. Example from the prosecution reading from an investor deck: “Theranos proprietary technology runs comprehensive blood tests from a finger stick.” Another slide was 10-Pinocchio-worthy: “Theranos has been comprehensively validated over the course of the last seven years by 10 of the 15 largest pharmaceutical companies, with hundreds of thousands of assays processed.”
These were good enough for investors like Lisa Peterson of the DeVos family office, who testified last week about their decision to put in $100 million. In fact, investors were Social Networking right to Theranos’ door. The well-connected Daniel Mosley, who invested “a little under $6 million” in Theranos, after his client and friend Henry Kissinger, a Theranos board member and $3 million investor, asked him to evaluate the company, in 2014 recommended it to his other clients–the DeVos, Walton ($150 million), and Cox ($10 million) families. Black Diamond Ventures founder Chris Lucas invested $7 million in Theranos. He believed that Theranos’ analyzers were being used by the military in the Middle East. Presumably, his uncle Don Lucas, who sat on the Theranos board, backed up the claim. They were additionally impressed by Holmes’ intensity and insistence that the company was on a mission to revolutionize blood testing. Risk can be fashionable for ‘high-quality families’ who aren’t hands-on with their money and won’t experience hardship if the investment doesn’t pan out.
The investors like Peterson and Mosley believed what they were shown was steak, not marshmallow, like projected revenue of $140 million in 2014 after zero revenue in the two prior years. They didn’t examine the books, other key corporate records, or make a technical evaluation of the labs. Why? “We were very careful not to circumvent things and upset Elizabeth,” Peterson of the DeVos office said. “If we did too much, we wouldn’t be invited back to invest.” Ooof. But on their side, in 2014-2015, the winds of hype were blowing fair, the skies were blue on CNBC, and Walgreens plus Safeway were lashed to the mizzenmast. The Verge, CNBC, KTVU Fox 2
The defense keeps pinning blame on the investors for being naïve, which is taken up by the NY Times. With 20/20 hindsight and infinite wisdom, the article blames the investors for not being scrupulous in their due diligence. A fair point made is that in ‘hot’ startup markets, no one looks too closely for the Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO)–something we see this very day.
Holmes’ chances of pinning the blame on president/boyfriend ‘Sunny’ Balwani and evading any lengthy time are low at best.
- The defense sub-strategy of painting Holmes as controlled by Balwani appears to be augering in. CNBC uncovered a 27 June 2018 videotaped deposition in an investor lawsuit, eventually settled, where Holmes, in between taking the Fifth Amendment, also claimed she was the ultimate decision-maker at Theranos.
- An analysis published in the Mercury News (PDF), through the paywall, is not sanguine about Holmes beating the odds and walking free, or with minimal time. However, juries do strange things in assessing fraud, even when piled high and wide by the prosecution, out of sheer boredom or cussedness. Holmes is also surrounded by family, friends, baby on breaks, and baby papa, all of which can sway some jurors.
So as the trial passes the halfway corner, we observers are waiting for a final bombshell–or two.
TTA’s earlier coverage: Chapter 5, Chapter 4 (see new comment from Malcolm Fisk), Chapter 3, Chapter 2, Chapter 1
To be continued….
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