False HIV results, miscarriage, and cancer diagnosis—the Theranos patients Elizabeth Holmes was found not guilty of defrauding
On Monday, Elizabeth Holmes, the 37-year-old founder of the failed blood testing company Theranos, was found guilty of defrauding investors, ending the months-long trial and years-long downfall of the former tech titan.
The tale that was woven around Holmes has already been auctioned off and will soon be presented to America in two competing films in which Holmes—played by Jennifer Lawrence and Amanda Seyfried—will likely become the poster child for greed and corruption in Silicon Valley. A Jordan Belfort gone west.
Those films will get their grand conclusion, with a jury of eight men and four women convicting Holmes of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud by lying to investors to raise money. Sentencing will likely take place next week; Holmes is expected to appeal the verdict.
But the consumers who used the health-testing services provided by Theranos won’t get the ending they had hoped for. Holmes was found not guilty on three charges of defrauding patients and one charge of conspiracy to defraud patients.
Brittany Gould, a patient who took the stand during Elizabeth Holmes’s trial, testified that a Theranos blood test revealed she was having a miscarriage when, in fact, she had a healthy pregnancy. As a result of the false positive, she changed the medication she was taking, which could have harmed the fetus. (She eventually gave birth to a healthy baby.)
Another patient who testified, Erin Tompkins, said she received a false positive HIV antibody result after taking a Theranos test at a Walgreens in Arizona. “I was quite emotional at the time,” Tompkins told jurors.
Steve Hammons, a retired marketer from Peoria, Ariz., learned in October 2016 that Theranos had corrected a September 2015 test showing his blood taking more than six times longer than normal to clot. As a result he was told by his doctor to stop taking his blood thinner, warfarin, and switch to a less potent medicine. He received his corrected results only after the Wall Street Journal inquired about them.
Arizona was the primary testing ground for Theranos products and services in 2013 when it started rolling out its faulty technology at Walgreens stores across Phoenix. About 40 Theranos Wellness Centers eventually opened in the area, along with a laboratory at Arizona State University’s SkySong office complex in Scottsdale.
Between 2013 and 2016, Theranos sold more than 1.5 million blood tests that yielded 7.8 million test results for 175,940 Arizona consumers, and more than 10% of all test results were later voided or corrected.
“If someone lost their job, or someone thought they had a disease when they didn’t, or they should have gotten treatment when they didn’t because of a false test, that’s heartbreaking. It’s wrong,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich told Fortune. “Elizabeth Holmes needs to spend as much time in prison as possible for what she did to people.”
In 2017, Brnovich negotiated a $4.65 million consumer-fraud settlement with Theranos for those who had purchased Theranos tests at Arizona retail locations.
“Elizabeth Holmes was a con artist. In Silicon Valley, you often get folks that fake it till they make it and have a different sense of reality, and there’s a certain amount of hubris and arrogance,” he said. “But no matter who you are or where you come from or who your powerful friends are or how wealthy you may be, I’m going to hold you accountable. I made sure that Arizona consumers were protected, but I can’t control what other entities do.”
Brnovich, a Republican, told Fortune that elected officials in his state were too eager to “roll out the red carpet” for Holmes and put their constituents at risk through products that hadn’t been properly assessed. Monday’s verdict sends a strong message, he said, not only to potential investors but also to politicians who invite tech companies to use their states as testing grounds for their latest innovations.
“What history has shown us is that there are always folks out there, from Bernie Madoff to Elizabeth Holmes, who will try to take advantage of folks and prey on their greed or their vulnerabilities.”
If sentenced, Holmes will be the most notable female executive to go to prison for fraud since Martha Stewart, who served time for lying to investigators about a stock sale, in 2004.
Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison for each of her convictions.
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