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In her Theranos scam, Elizabeth Holmes speaks for herself




Elizabeth Holmes, her hair down and her makeup muted in relation to her Theranos days, spelled her name in court. After the prosecution rested its case in the morning, the defense called her as its third witness, about an hour before the end of the day. She was wearing a navy blue blazer with a white blouse – not one of the famous black turtlenecks has appeared in court during the months the case against her has dragged on.

Holmes faces 11 cases of fraud from his time as founder and CEO of Theranos. Although her testimony today is the first time she speaks for herself, we have already heard her voice ̵[ads1]1; in the recordings of Fortune journalist Roger Parloff. In these recordings, she confidently lies about the device’s capabilities. And the lies Parloff recorded were consistent with the lies her investors testified she told them.

I do not think I’m the only person who’s been wondering how to explain this. Now we’ll find out.

So far, Holmes has not said much – we have learned about her education, the time she spent at Stanford, and that she dropped out to form Theranos. When her testimony ended today, we were still in 2006, well before the period the government claims that some fraud took place, which means that most of the juicy must wait until next week.

Holmes was cheerful and smiled at her lawyer, Kevin Downey. She seemed relaxed and focused. Everyone I know has asked me about her voice. For what it’s worth, the most uncomfortable part of The Voice Discourse is that most of these writers have no musical training. She is not and could never have been a “baritone”, like Inc wrote – she’s not even a tenor! – and the idea that she would go up “several octaves” when she speaks normally, as John Carreyrou writes in Bad blood, suggests a “real” pitch higher than the speaking voice of Kristen Chenoweth. That’s nonsense.

Holmes sounds like a normal everything to me, even though she has a habit of dropping her voice to strike words she wants to emphasize. Then she sounds like she has a cold, or maybe like Jesabel say it as if she uses the voice «impression of a stupid man». If it’s an affection, it’s one she’s had for so long that it’s natural for her now. In any case, most of her speech is not at the bottom.

But the voice is part of the famous Holmes persona, which I expect we will hear more about in the coming days. The defense has indicated that they expect to continue questioning her throughout next week; if the prosecution’s cross-examination is shorter than two days, I’ll be surprised.

The story Holmes told in his testimony is well known. She dropped out of Stanford and used the rest of the money her parents had saved from her college education, as well as some debt and some money from family friends, to start a company called Real-Time Cures. She later changed the name to Theranos.

Originally, the idea was to make a pill or a patch, one that would analyze a person’s blood, allowing for more precise drug dosing. But people seemed more interested in a tabletop for blood analysis, instead of a pill or a patch, so she changed her focus.

She raised money from Don Lucas, an investor best known for his association with Oracle, and Larry Ellison, among others. Lucas wanted to talk to some of the pharmaceutical companies Theranos had worked with as part of his due diligence, so we were shown an email from 2005 in which Holmes introduced Lucas to someone she had worked with in Pfizer. We also saw the answer: that he would like to talk to Lucas.

With the money Holmes collected, she created a device called Theranos 1.0, an image that was displayed in the courtroom, and which to me looked as if someone had attached a thick antenna to a gray printer.

During that time, the business plan was to collaborate with drug companies on their clinical trials. She spoke with Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Bristol Myers Squibb. Theranos signed agreements with GSK in September 2006, and with Pfizer in November 2006. The company also did demos for Novartis and Eli Lilly.

We were even shown an email from Holmes to all the staff at Theranos about the Novartis demo. In the email of November 19, 2006, she wrote: “We did it. You have all done an incredible job of making this happen – this is the Theranos way. We are in the process of doing what we need to do next month and in ’07. “

We also saw an email from 2006 from Holmes to Bob Grady, a partner in the Carlyle Group, when Holmes was raising money. In it, she lists people at Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis he can talk to if he wants to confirm their work with Theranos. Not all investors requested this information, she testified.

And then we broke for the day. The period in which the government alleges fraud has taken place is still ahead of us. We know from the opening statements that Holmes can blame Sunny Balwani, her co-defendant who is being tried separately; The defense suggested that her mistake was to rely on him too much.

She can also claim that he abused her. In court documents opened in August, she claimed that he controlled what she ate, how she dressed and all her communication. (Balwani denies this.) The abuse charges explain why the two are being tried separately; an expert on violent relationships, Mindy Mechanic, is on the defense’s witness list, although she may not be called.

In her forthcoming testimony, which I expect will be long, I look forward to her explanation remarkably consistent lies several people testified – that Theranos units were used in Afghanistan and on military helicopters, that Theranos units could perform more than 200 tests, and that the company did not use the competitors’ machines for tests. I am particularly interested in the forthcoming cross-examination, when the government can use her extensive amount of statements, including those in the press, to ask her questions.

But right now we have just heard the story of a new start-up – one that would not have been interesting or unusual if it were not for how the company ended.



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