United States: Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes convicted of fraud

This lawsuit is the biggest scam in Silicon Valley. After more than fifty hours of deliberation in total, the twelve jurors – eight men and four women – of the federal court in San José (California), convicted, Monday, January 3, Elizabeth Holmes, for fraud. This business leader, who promised to revolutionize blood tests with his start-up Theranos, has been found guilty of defrauding investors.

The jury, however, acquitted her of certain charges, and was unable to agree on other charges against her. This conviction exposes the 37-year-old woman to several decades in prison, but the sentence will be pronounced at a later date by the federal court.

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Elizabeth Holmes remains free on bail, a measure the terms of which are to be reviewed next week. Pressed to say if she intended to appeal her conviction, the fallen boss made no comment when she left court.

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Jurors began deliberating at the end of the day on December 17, after hearing testimony for more than three months during the trial in San José, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

Mme Holmes founded Theranos in 2003, at the age of 19. It promised to produce diagnostic tools faster and cheaper than those in traditional laboratories. With the help of a careful story, she had managed in a few years to gain the trust of luminaries and to raise funds from prestigious investors, attracted by the profile of this young woman, a rarity in the male world of Californian engineers. .

Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger supported her then, like former defense minister James Mattis or media mogul Rupert Murdoch, who invested more than $ 100 million in Theranos. At its peak, the company is valued at nearly $ 10 billion.

Having become a billionaire at the age of 30, Elizabeth Holmes then symbolizes, in many ways, the entrepreneurs of Silicon Valley, between dropping out at 19 from her studies at the prestigious Stanford University and her taste for black turtleneck sweaters, the iconic garment of the legendary Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

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The story was beautiful. As a child, she hated needle pricks during blood tests. She will therefore invent a simple, fast and efficient machine that will allow everyone to carry out hundreds of blood diagnoses from a single drop of blood taken from the fingertip. But in 2015, the Wall Street Journal raises the huge pot of roses: the fabulous machine promised by Theranos has never worked.

In front of the San José court where the trial opened in early September 2021, a pregnant woman recounted how she mistakenly believed she had miscarried because of a test result given by Theranos. Employees testified that they warned the boss of their doubts about the operation of the machines. Some also told the press about Mr.me Holmes to his teams and to investors.

“Pretend until you get there”

For some, she embodied this Silicon Valley mantra: « Fake it till you make it » (“Pretend until you get there”). Elizabeth Holmes pleaded this good faith in court. “We were on the right track to accomplish our goals” before the business collapsed, she told the bar.

“Failure is not a crime, to persevere and not achieve it is not a crime”, for his part launched his lawyer Lance Wade at the start of the trial. « Mme Holmes tried to save his company to the end, never selling a share ”, added the lawyer, noting that his client had “Sunk with the boat”.

The prosecution made a whole different reading of this fairy tale that turned into a financial nightmare. « Mme Holmes chose fraud over bankruptcy, she chose to be dishonest ”, had attacked in his requisitions the prosecutor Jeff Schenk. “This choice was not only ruthless but also criminal”, he had launched to the jurors.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the former entrepreneur deliberately deceived her partners to raise funds, more than 700 million dollars in all. In response, Elizabeth Holmes assured jurors that her romantic relationship with her ex-director of operations, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani – who will be tried separately – had been peppered with forced sex and that he was responsible for the problems. techniques of his company.

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The World with AFP

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United States: Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes convicted of fraud

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