Martin Shkreli believes he became a target for authorities after raising the price of a lifesaving drug.
The ex-CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals was arrested Thursday under suspicion of securities fraud and later released on bail. The Securities and Exchange Commission had been investigating him since 2012 regarding a hedge fund he managed, the Wall Street Journal reports. The SEC complaint includes claims that Shkreli exaggerated the fund’s performance to investors and used stock from the firm to pay off unrelated debts.
Though the indictment doesn’t cite his decision to raise drug prices by 5,000%, Shkreli told the Journal in an interview he believes that’s what made him a target. “Trying to find anything we could to stop him,’ was the attitude of the government,” Shkreli said, “beating the person up and then trying to find the merits to make up for it.”
He added that his online persona was simply a “social experiment.” After his infamous price hike, he had the attention of millions and thought “it would be fun to experiment with,” but says that his behavior was just an act.
In the interview, Shkreli stood by his decision to increase prices, but admitted that he could have been more patient in explaining the move and less provocative in the wake of criticism. He said he now plans to focus on toning down the persona he created and show everyone “the real Martin Shkreli.”
In explaining the indictment, an FBI official told the Journal that Shkreli had practiced “a securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit and greed.”
If convicted, he could be sentenced to 20 years in prison, but the charges have already had an effect. Two institutions halted a drug trial over the weekend that was sponsored by KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc., where Shkreli was the CEO until he was fired on Monday.