Coverage: Drug company executive Shkreli goes to trial
Drug company executive Martin Shkreli goes to trial on Monday for fraud that he allegedly committed while running a hedge fund.
David Crow of The Financial Times has the news:
When Martin Shkreli gained international notoriety for raising the price of an Aids and cancer medicine by 5,000 per cent, he was quick to point out he had done nothing illegal.
That might be true but federal prosecutors allege he did break the law by defrauding investors in a hedge fund before he became known for price gouging, and on Monday he is due to stand trial in Brooklyn, New York.
Mr Shkreli’s alleged fraud is small beer by the standards of other well-known cases, and might have gone unnoticed by the world’s media were it not for his actions as chief executive and founder of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
In September 2015, Turing bought a decades-old drug, Daraprim, and promptly hoisted the price from $13.50 to $750 a pill — putting it out of reach for some of the Aids and cancer patients who needed it to fend off a deadly type of infection.
The public outcry was deafening and echoed around the world, drawing Mr Shkreli a rebuke from then Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and catapulting the issue of high drug prices to the forefront of the 2016 US election campaign.
Kevin McCoy of USA Today reports that Shkreli may not take the stand:
And never mind that the man informally dubbed the “Pharma Bro,” a 34-year-old son of Albanian and Croatian immigrants, may opt against taking the witness stand in his own defense.
For the final pretrial hearing last week, many legal interns joined reporters in U.S. District Court, packing it to overflowing. One woman sat on the carpeted floor.
During legal arguments, Benjamin Brafman, the veteran criminal lawyer who’s leading the defense team, indirectly summarized the attraction of Shkreli. He is “traveling to the beat of his very unique drummer.”
Jurors are scheduled to hear dozens of witnesses whose testimony will alternately support and question the eight-count indictment against Shkreli. It accuses him of illegally taking stock from Retrophin — a biotechnology company he started in 2011 and was ousted from in 2014 — and then using it to pay unrelated debts owed to investors in hedge funds he’d previously headed.
The indictment also accuses Shkreli of defrauding investors in MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare through misstatements and omissions about the financial performance of the hedge funds, how much other investors put in, and how much Shkreli took out.
Steven Klett of the International Business Times reports he faces 20 years in jail if convicted:
Throughout the process, Shkreli has maintained his innocence.
“I’m so innocent, the jury, judge and the prosecution are gonna give me an apology,” he said in a recent live stream, according to a New York Times report that said several live streams available earlier this week had been taken down by the midweek.
At the hearing Monday, Brafman said Shkreli didn’t defraud the investors because they ultimately got their money back. Prosecutor Jacquelyn Kasulis argued that fraud can mean “depriving investors of a right to control their assets.”
“There is law here, there are rules, they apply to Mr. Shkreli,” she said.
One reason Shkreli maintains infamy is that he flaunts his extravagant wealth. He owns a Picasso painting and bought the only copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album “Once Upon A Time In Shaolin” for $2 million in 2015. He later leaked the album to celebrate Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election.