Did Elizabeth Holmes willfully fool investors and patients or did she have a good faith belief that she was going to revolutionize blood testing? The prosecution and the defense took turns defending their positions Thursday at the end of the trial of the former rising star of Silicon Valley.
The charismatic entrepreneur had 19 years old when she founded Theranos in 2003. It promised to produce diagnostic tools faster and cheaper than traditional labs, but the machines never performed as promised.
For the prosecutor, “Elizabeth Holmes had a choice at do “when Theranos was losing money and the big pharmaceutical companies were less interested in his business.
“Mrs. Holmes chose fraud rather than bankruptcy, she chose to be dishonest. This choice was not only ruthless but also criminal”, asserted Jeff Schenk before the jurors of a federal court in San José, California.
Now 37 years old, she faces decades in prison if the prosecution manages to convince the jury that she knowingly sought to deceive investors and the public.
Holmes for her part assures that she really believed in her diagnostic technology and that she simply made mistakes .
The activity of his company was real, contracts were signed, argued his lawyer at the hearing, Kevin Downey.
Above all, sign of her confidence in a technology supposed to be able to carry out all kinds of tests, Theranos 4.0, she filed a dossier with the health authorities to be able to commercialize it.
“If a person is in good faith, you have no reason to find her guilty “, argued Mr. Downey, according to whom one must evaluate his actions in the light of his intentions.
– Fail like any other? –
Ms. Holmes also partly blames her failings on the hold she says she suffered from her former partner, also in charge of the laboratory, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. The latter is being pursued separately.
The entrepreneur, who for a time regularly wore black turtleneck sweaters like the legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, had managed to convince personalities like the tycoon media Rupert Murdoch or former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger to support it. But a series of Wall Street Journal surveys in 2015 began to raise doubts.
At the stand, former employees expressed their doubts about the machines, recalled the prosecutor. Pregnant woman recounted how she mistakenly believed she had miscarried, while former U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis spoke of how he went from fascination to disappointment with Theranos when he was on its board of directors.
The young entrepreneur was not only talking about ambitious goals, she was talking about laboratories already capable of functioning, underlined Mr. Schenk. She lied, according to him, on the accuracy of blood tests, on financial forecasts, on the use of machines by the army or on orders from large laboratories.
Her role “was to recruit investors using inaccuracies “, assailed the prosecutor.
” Mrs. Holmes believed that she had invented a perfectly valid new technology, she believed that others outside the company shared this point of view “, defended the lawyer.
The question at the heart of the lawsuit, started in September, is to know if she is an entrepreneur who has simply failed, as he exist in both Silicon Valley, or if she knowingly made inaccurate statements to fool her interlocutors and take advantage of the situation.
Ms. Holmes’ lawyer is due to continue her argument on Friday. The prosecution will then have a right of reply, after which the jury will begin its deliberations.