Sunny Balwani Trial: Former COO for Theranos Accused of Federal Fraud

The jury’s deliberations lasted for four full days after a lengthy trial that began in March with opening statements. Balwani, the former president and COO of Theranos, was indicted along with Holmes four years ago for alleged fraud by investors and patients. Their lawsuits were adjourned after Holmes’ legal team outlined in legal documents that she planned to bring charges against their relationship as part of her defense.

Balwani’s verdict comes about six months after Holmes, the founder and former CEO of the failed start-up of blood tests, was found guilty on four of 11 federal fraud and conspiracy charges.

Holmes founded Theranos when she was 19 years old in an attempt to create a cheaper and more effective alternative to traditional blood testing, a goal she said was inspired by her own fear of needles. The startup later claimed to have developed technology capable of testing for a variety of conditions, including cancer and diabetes, with just a few drops of blood. Theranos eventually raised $ 945 million from investors, including well-known figures such as media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Walmart̵[ads1]7;s Walton family. It also initiated partnerships with prominent retailers.

Then it all fell apart, and began with a 2015 Wall Street Journal survey of the startup that revealed gaps in test methods and technological capabilities.

Balwani’s trial took place in the same courtroom in San Jose, California, where Holmes was convicted. His case was postponed several times due to delays in Holme’s trial and later by an increase in Covid-19.

To make its case against Balwani, the government called two dozen witnesses – many of whom had previously been called to testify in Holme’s trial – as it tried to convince jurors that he had deliberately lied and tricked investors and patients into taking their money. The defense called only two witnesses to testify. During his arguments, the defense presented Balwani as having acted in good faith and believing in the company’s technology. The defense also tried to cast doubt on whether the government had enough evidence that the jury could find Balwani guilty.

Balwani’s relationship with Holmes dates back to 2002, when the two met while attending a summer program in Beijing to learn Mandarin. Balwani, almost 20 years older than Holmes, had already had a successful career in the software industry and as an entrepreneur. As Holmes testified in his own defense in the trial, a friendship that was forged between the two eventually became romantic.

In 2005, the year after Holmes dropped out of Stanford to work full-time at Theranos, the couple lived together. In 2009, Balwani took on a formal role at the start, after guaranteeing a $ 10 million loan.

Balwani risks up to 20 years in prison and a fine of $ 250,000 plus redress for each count of wire fraud and each conspiracy count. He has pleaded guilty.

Holmes is expected to be convicted at the end of September.

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