According to the U.S. Justice Department and numerous news sources, a California Federal jury has convicted Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of Theranos on 4 counts of wire fraud against Theranos investors. She was acquitted on all four counts of wire fraud against patients. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The Justice Department website states that Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani are charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and nine counts of wire fraud. According to the indictment, the charges stem from allegations that Holmes and Balwani engaged in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors, and a separate scheme to defraud doctors and patients. Both schemes involved efforts to promote Theranos, a company founded by Holmes and based in Palo Alto, California. Theranos was a private healthcare and life sciences company with the stated mission to revolutionize medical laboratory testing through allegedly innovative methods for drawing blood, testing blood, and interpreting the resulting patient data.
Holmes and Balwani used advertisements and solicitations to encourage and induce doctors and patients to use Theranos’s blood testing laboratory services, even though, according to the government, the defendants knew Theranos was not capable of consistently producing accurate and reliable results for certain blood tests. It is further alleged that the tests performed on Theranos technology were likely to contain inaccurate and unreliable results.
The indictment alleges that Holmes and Balwani defrauded doctors and patients (1) by making false claims concerning Theranos’s ability to provide accurate, fast, reliable, and cheap blood tests and test results, and (2) by omitting information concerning the limits of and problems with Theranos’s technologies. The defendants knew Theranos was not capable of consistently producing accurate and reliable results for certain blood tests, including the tests for calcium, chloride, potassium, bicarbonate, HIV, Hba1C, hCG, and sodium. The defendants nevertheless used interstate electronic wires to purchase advertisements intended to induce individuals to purchase Theranos blood tests at Walgreens stores in California and Arizona. Through these advertisements, the defendants explicitly represented to individuals that Theranos’s blood tests were cheaper than blood tests from conventional laboratories to induce individuals to purchase Theranos’s blood tests.
According to the indictment, the defendants also allegedly made numerous misrepresentations to potential investors about Theranos’s financial condition and its future prospects. For example, the defendants represented to investors that Theranos conducted its patients’ tests using Theranos-manufactured analyzers; when, in truth, Holmes and Balwani knew that Theranos purchased and used for patient testing third party, commercially-available analyzers. The defendants also represented to investors that Theranos would generate over $100 million in revenues and break even in 2014 and that Theranos expected to generate approximately $1 billion in revenues in 2015; when, in truth, the defendants knew Theranos would generate only negligible or modest revenues in 2014 and 2015.