Disgraced Theranos founder, Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of four charges of fraud for bilking investors out of $9billion and deceiving patients with sham medical reports. Her trial brings to close a wild saga that includes baffling stories about how she was obsessed with Steve Jobs, faked her voice to sound more authoritative, and carried out a secret love affair with the company’s COO
Elizabeth Holmes, the 37-year-old disgraced founder of Theranos, has been convicted of four fraud charges for deceiving investors of $9billion and for bilking thousands of patients with inaccurate and false medical reports.
Holmes, a Stanford University dropout who founded Theranos in 2003 at age 19, duped thousands of patients with bogus claims her biotech startup company could conduct a full range of medical tests using blood from a simple finger prick.
She was convicted of four fraud counts on Monday night, and cleared of four others. Jurors were unable to decide verdicts on the three remaining charges she faced, with prosecutors now able to re-try Holmes on those counts if they wish to.
She was, at one point, the youngest female billionaire in the United States and heralded as ‘the next Steve Jobs’ for revolutionizing lab testing with a proprietary blood analysis device nicknamed the ‘Edison.’
The Silicon Valley ‘unicorn’ startup raised $900million and had more than 800 employees. Her company was more valuable that Uber, Spotify and AirBnB.
With her trademark heavy eyeliner rimmed eyes, bleached blonde hair, red lipstick and Steve Jobs-like black turtleneck, Elizabeth Holmes swanned through boardrooms, TED Talks and investor meetings as the new darling of Silicon Valley.
Early investors included powerhouses like Rupert Murdoch, Larry Ellison, Jim Walton, Robert Kraft, and Betsy DeVos. Sitting on the Board of Directors were Former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz alongside former Secretary of Defense, General Jim Mattis, the CEO of Wells Fargo, and CDC Director, William Foege.
She graced the covers of countless magazines including Fortune, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, The New York Times Style Magazine; and was named one of Time Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People’ of 2015.
What nobody knew is that her ‘disruptive’ technology didn’t work. The Edison was touted as a magical mini lab that could process over 240 tests – from cholesterol to cancer – within one hour. Instead, blood tests were often secretly conducted on third party commercial machines made by Siemens; and unbeknownst to investors and patients, when results did come back from the Edison, they were inconsistent, flawed or flat-out false.
Then it all came crashing down in 2018. The shortcomings of Theranos’ technology were exposed and its $10billion valuation was worth ‘less than zero’ overnight. Operations were shutdown and Holmes was charged with 11 counts of fraud.
After multiple delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic and Holmes’ pregnancy, the trial finally kicked off in August 2021, revealing a series of bizarre lies and baffling stories about the persona she perpetuated.
‘She is a pathological liar. She wanted to be a celebrated tech entrepreneur. She wanted to be rich and famous,’ said Wall Street Journal writer, John Carreyou, who spent years investigating Elizabeth Holmes.
From her undying obsession with Steve Jobs to stories of how Theranos employees chanted ‘F**k you’ in company-wide meetings, to a trove of steamy texts with COO Sunny Balwani, a fake baritone voice and the inexplicable insistence that her dog is a ‘wolf,’ here is the weird world of Elizabeth Holmes.
Bold talk and black turtlenecks, how Elizabeth Holmes styled herself after Steve Jobs:
Elizabeth Holmes worshipped Steve Jobs and mimicked every aspect of his life, including the way he dressed, his strict green juice diet, his preference for black leather Le Corbusier chairs in his office and his obsession with secrecy. ‘I’m a tremendous admirer of what Steve Jobs did,’ she once told journalist Ken Auletta. ‘I think he was a genius but I do have to disclose that I’ve been in black turtlenecks since I was seven’
Elizabeth Holmes claimed that her ‘Edison’ device (named after Thomas Edison) was a mini lab that could process over 240 tests, from cholesterol to infectious disease. It was modeled to look like Steve Jobs’ ‘NeXT computer.’ One whistleblower in the HBO doc said that ‘pieces of the device would literally fall off in the middle of testing,’ and centrifuges exploded on the inside. Eventually, Theranos used third-party commercial lab testing machines made by Siemens but continued to lie to investors about their ‘groundbreaking’ technology
Elizabeth Holmes was a 19-year-old, Stanford University dropout when she founded Theranos in 2003. She claimed that her biotech startup would revolutionize healthcare by creating cheap and accessible blood tests that could screen of hundreds of diseases with just the prick of a finger. The company grew to 800 employees and raised over $900million with a $10billion valuation. Holmes was heralded as a ‘tech icon’ and at one point, was the youngest female billionaire in the United States before her house of cards came crashing down in 2018 after multiple reports exposed that Theranos’ technology was a sham
Elizabeth Holmes leaves federal court in San Jose, California holding hands with her husband, Billy Evans, and her parents. Since the collapse of Theranos in 2018, Holmes married the young hotel scion and gave birth to a daughter in August 2021
According to former employees, Elizabeth Holmes saw herself as the female version of Apple CEO, Steve Jobs. She frequently referred to Theranos’ blood-testing systems as ‘the iPod of healthcare’ and adopted his signature style of black turtlenecks.
‘In line with designing my life to be able to give every bit of energy I have to this, I have a closet that has a very large number of the exact same clothes and every single day, I put the same thing on,’ she told Ken Auletta of the New Yorker in 2014. When he pointed out that Jobs said the same thing she laughed and objected: ‘He wore jeans.’
‘I’m a tremendous admirer of what Steve Jobs did,’ she continued. ‘I think he was a genius but I do have to disclose that I’ve been in black turtlenecks since I was seven.’
Like Jobs, Holmes was a vegan who hewed to his strict green juice diet that consisted of cucumber, parsley, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and celery.
She decorated her Theranos office with Le Corbusier black leather chairs, (which were a favorite of Jobs) and began to emulate his obsession with secrecy once her star power began to rise. In 2019, it was also revealed Holmes had claimed her husky Balto was actually a wolf, in an apparent bid to further enhance her powerful image.
Much like the late Apple CEO who leased a new Mercedes every six months to avoid having license plates; Holmes hired a security detail to drive her around in a black Audi sedan without plates.
To her security detail, Holmes was known as ‘Eagle 1;’ while her lover and Theranos COO, Sunny Balwani was known as ‘Eagle 2.’
According to his book, Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, John Carreyrou details how Holmes borrowed from the’ management techniques that were described in Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. Theranos employees said they ‘could pinpoint which chapter she was on based on which period of Jobs’s career she was impersonating.’
In the HBO documentary, The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley, Roger Parloff, a journalist who profiled Holmes for Fortune magazine described her obsession with Steve Jobs as, ‘hero worship.’
During the trial, dozens of stream of consciousness-like writings were released as evidence. According to leaked documents obtained by CNBC, one ‘note to self’ in April 2015 contained three telling words: ‘Becoming Steve Jobs.’
How Elizabeth Holmes faked her deep voice to sound more authoritative:
According to former co-workers and acquaintances, Holmes purposefully lowered her voice to an impossibly deep baritone in order to project gravitas in the male dominated tech industry. Former employee, Ana Arriola, revealed to The Dropout podcast that that occasionally Holmes ‘fell out of character’ while she was drinking and exposed her real, higher pitched voice
Much like the ubiquitous iPod, Holmes believed that her Edison disease-detection devices would one day be in every home. She was unflinching in her conviction, she told one interviewer: ‘To be able to give people the tools to change their life is an incredible privileges, everyday I’m just so grateful for how this is unfolding, it’s a gift from god’
According to former co-workers and acquaintances, Holmes purposefully lowered her voice to an impossibly deep ‘back-of-the-throat’ baritone in order to project gravitas in the male dominated tech industry.
The faked contralto with a vague California affectation and ‘a touch of robot’ became one of Holmes’ trademarks.
Ana Arriola, a former Theranos employee told The Dropout podcast that occasionally Holmes ‘fell out of character’ while she was drinking and exposed her real, higher pitched voice.
‘It was maybe at one of the company parties, and maybe she had too much to drink or what not, but she fell out of character and exposed that that was not necessarily her true voice,’ explained Arriola. ‘Maybe she needed to be more convincing to project a persona within a room among male VCs. I’m not really quite sure.’
Writer and reporter John Carreyrou says that Holmes accidentally spoke in her normal voice at the end of a long meeting with a new employee in 2011. He told 60 Minutes: ‘It was late in the day and they were finishing up the meeting and she sort of expressed her excitement that he had recently joined.’
‘And as she got up, she forgot to put on the baritone and slipped back into a more natural sounding young woman’s voice,’ which took the new staffer by surprise.
Holmes’ family members came to her defense and told TMZ that her deep voice is authentic and most people in her family have lower voices, ‘including her grandmother.’
Holmes’ steamy romance with Theranos COO Sunny Balwani, who was 19-years her senior:
Holmes was 18 when she met 37-year-old Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani while on a Chinese-language immersion trip in 2002. The pair quietly started dated for 12 years before their romance fizzled in 2016.
One former employee described Sunny Balwani as ‘a Mark Cuban character’ who made a lot of money ‘being in the right place at the right time’ during the 90s dot com bubble. Without having any experience in medicine, he was hired at Theranos in 2009 to focus on e-commerce but was soon made President and Chief Operating Officer.
Balwani, like many others in Holmes’ circle, was convinced she was the type of iconoclastic inventor who comes along once in a lifetime.
Holmes was 18 when she met 37-year-old Ramesh ‘Sunny’ Balwani while on a Chinese-language immersion trip in 2002. The pair quietly started dated for 12 years before their romance fizzled in 2016. Balwani was a Pakistan-born multi-millionaire who got rich during the dot com bubble. Despite having no experience in medicine, he was appointed President and COO of Theranos from 2009 to when he was fired in 2016. Though the couple tried to keep their romance under wraps, it became obvious to colleagues around them: ‘They were always talking to each other, offline, online, in meetings, outside of meetings. They were very close’
During her trial Holmes tearfully testified that Balwani sexually and emotionally abused her. ‘He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know he still loved me,’ said Holmes in court. She alleged that her former business partner and lover controlled what she ate, how she lived, how she dressed and often undermined her confidence in running the company
Nearly 600 pages of private text messages were presented during the fraud trial which detailed Holmes and Balwani’s lavish lifestyle. Some were more mundane, others were business related and many were romantic declarations of love: ‘You are breeze in desert for me. My water. And ocean … Meant to be only together tiger,’ wrote Holmes before adding, ‘Madly in love with you and your strength’
The couple did not disclose their relationship to investors and despite great efforts to keep their romance under wraps, it became obvious to colleagues around them: ‘They certainly would leave together, they’d come in at similar times. They were always talking to each other, offline, online, in meetings, outside of meetings. They were very close.’
Holmes’ former executive assistant, Paige Williams told the FBI that she only learned the Theranos founder lived with Balwani after visiting the home the couple shared.
The couple purchased a five-bedroom, seven-bathroom house in the tony suburb of Atherton in 2013. They created a limited liability company (LLC) to purchase the $9million residence which was named ‘HMFR.’ According to a court document, those initials stood for a prayer in Arabic that the couple often recited; the prayer translates to ‘This too is my God’s glory,’ explained Holmes.
Nearly 600 pages of private text messages were presented during the fraud trial which revealed their lavish lifestyle – like planning trips to Las Vegas that included reservations at three star Michelin restaurants and thousand dollar hotels.
Other texts ranged from the mundane: business meetings, staff attendance, internal complaints, flight details and updates on their pet fish, to romantic love overtures: ‘This is our year,’ wrote Holmes, ‘We can never forget it tiger… for our kids never forget who we are.’
In another thread from May 2015, Holmes says, ‘You are breeze in desert for me. My water. And ocean … Meant to be only together tiger,’ She added: ‘Madly in love with you and your strength.’
Balwani’s texts were equally effusive: ‘Infinite love for you in every breath,’ he wrote in April 2016. ‘Infinite love for you in every breath,’ he said in another.
The romance started to sour in 2015 when problems began to arise. In later texts, the pair fretted over FDA regulations and discussed making the company less about healthcare and ‘100 percent tech’.
‘I know u r angry in ur way [sic]. And upset with me for not doing everything you wanted me to do,’ texted Balwani before warning her about ‘challenges’ ahead. ‘U need me.’
Holmes’ defense pointed to a three page document written by Balwani that outlined how Holmes should spend her day. The note includes directions like: ‘I will never meet with anyone for more than five minutes unless I have written down why’
During her trial Holmes tearfully testified that Balwani sexually and emotionally abused her.
‘He would force me to have sex with him when I didn’t want to because he would say that he wanted me to know he still loved me,’ said Holmes in court.
She told the court that the Pakistan-born multimillionaire controlled what she ate, how she lived and often undermined her confidence in running the company. She alleged that he dictated the clothes she wore, and frequently forced her to follow a strict daily prayer routine and adhere to a punishing diet consisting of green juice that kept her ‘pure.’
Her defense pointed to a text from Balwani that said: ‘I have molded you.’ They also released evidence in the form of a handwritten note that were instructions on how to become ‘the new Elizabeth.’
The three pages of scrawlings outline how Holmes should start her day, beginning with forcing herself out of bed and spending 30 minutes – ‘never a minute less’ – writing down the day’s goals.
‘I will spend 20 percent of my time (80%) on things that are important to cash flow (short-term cash flow and long-term strategy and will spend <20% on urgent and non-important stuff,’ the note says.
The directives also told her how to treat her employees. ‘I will always give crisp, clean goals to my subordinates, even if they don’t like it – especially if they don’t like it,’ the note said. ‘I will not assume that people will do the ‘right’ or noble thing.
‘They are not motivated by what I am motivated by,’ it continued, bizarrely adding: ‘Don’t feed pasta and pesto to fish.’
Elizabeth Holmes bought a dog that she claimed was a ‘wolf’ and defecated all over the office:
As Theranos began to collapse in 2017, Holmes jetted off on a first class flight across the US to purchase a 9-week-old Siberian husky from a breeder. She named the grey and black puppy, Balto – after the famous sled dog who made the perilous 600-mile journey across Alaska to bring medicine to a diphtheria-ravaged village in 1925.
Despite the chaos, Holmes believed that Theranos could still be saved, and that Balto would lift employee spirits and provide an unconventional plan for redemption.
According to two former Theranos executives, Holmes (pictured above in 2019 with her current husband) asked her security detail and one of her drivers to escort her to the airport in her black Cadillac Escalade. She flew first-class across the country to purchase a 9-week-old Siberian husky, whom she believed would lift the company’s spirits. Instead Balto (named after a famous sled dog) terrorized staff and defecated all over the office. After discovering that her dog’s breed evolved from wolves, Holmes insisted on telling people that her Balto was a wolf – a claim that she still repeats to this day
According to Vanity Fair, Balto never left Holmes’ side. Everyday, one of her two drivers, along with two security personnel and two assistants would pick up Holmes and Balto from their Los Altos mega-mansion before work.
Balto terrorized staff by defecating and urinating all over the office, despite scientists warning that his hair and excrement might contaminate samples. Frenzied assistants were left cleaning up his mess.
Holmes decided that Balto was a wolf after discovering that Siberian husky genomes evolved from wolves. ‘In meetings, at cafés, whenever anyone stopped to pet the dog and ask his breed, Holmes matter-of-factly replied, ‘He’s a wolf,’ reported Vanity Fair.
She apparently repeats the unsubstantiated claim to this day.
Theranos employees chanted ‘F**k you’ in company-wide meetings while dancing to MC Hammer:
According to a court filing, Holmes and Sunny Balwani would lead profane chants in company meetings against rival companies and detractors
Cringeworthy internal footage leaked in HBO’s doc, Out For Blood, shows Holmes dancing o MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’ in a staff-wide meeting celebrating FDA approval over a rarely used Herpes test. At one point during the celebration, Sunny Balwani (pictured) takes over the mic and leads his employees to collectively shout ‘F***k You!’ over their competitors
According to a court filing before the trial, Holmes and Balwani would lead profane chants in company meetings against rival companies and detractors.
In cringe-worthy leaked footage featured in the 2019 HBO doc, Out For Blood, Holmes is seen dancing to MC Hammer’s ‘Can’t Touch This’ in a staff-wide celebration over FDA approval of a rarely used Herpes test. The small victory made them feel ‘untouchable.’
At one point during the celebration, Balwani took over the mic to get his employees to shout a collective ‘F***k You!’ as a message to their rival company Quest Diagnostics, who he said were ‘attacking the work which you are doing.’ Holmes’ continued the revelries by jumping in a children’s bouncy house.
Another claim states that Theranos targeted WSJ reporter John Carreyrou for writing a series of articles criticizing Holmes.
A company-wide e-mail instructed all lab coat technicians, programmers, and administrative staff to meet in the cafeteria. Holmes addressed her employees in an impassioned speech about how they were ‘changing the world,’ before Balwani led a rollicking chant that yelled ‘F***k you, Carreyrou!’ until the entire staff fervently cried out, ‘F***k you, Carreyrou!’
Not only that, employees programed a ‘Space Invaders-style’ video game in which players would shoot at little pictures of Carreyrou’s head.
Elizabeth Holmes cast a spell on powerful older men:
The key to Holmes’ success and ability to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital was that she surrounded herself with well-respected men who bolstered her credibility.
‘She aligned herself with very powerful older men who seemed to succumb to a certain charm,’ said Phyllis Gardner, Holmes’ former professor at Stanford to HBO. ‘And those powerful men could influence people in the government, influence the Department of Defense.’
Her earliest seed money came through family connections, her father was an executive at Enron while her mother worked as a congressional staffer. Through her father’s college buddies, Holmes was introduced to Oracle super-investor Don Lucas, who then brought Oracle founder Larry Ellison on board.
Another early backer was Tim Draper, a venture capitalist who saw promise in companies like Tesla, Skype, Baidu, Hotmail. Holmes was a childhood neighbor and friends with Draper’s daughter.
Powerhouse Board of Directors: Holmes’ success hinged on her ability to captivate powerful men. Sitting on her Board of Directors, were two former Secretaries of State, two Secretaries of Defense, and the Former CEO of Wells Fargo. Kissinger described Holmes as ‘an excellent businesswoman.’ He added: ‘You have to remember, she has a sort of ethereal quality. She is like a member of a monastic order’
In 2015, Vice President Joe Biden heralded Theranos as ‘a laboratory of the future. You can see what innovation is all about just walking through this facility.’ But former Theranos design architect, Ana Arriola, recounted the hysteria leading up to his visit. It was ‘completely fake,’ she said. What Biden saw that day was a smoke and mirrors operation. They cleared out a room, slapped on a fresh coat of paint and stocked it with every Edison device they could find
Honoree Elizabeth Holmes poses for a photo at the backstage inspiration wall at the 2015 Glamour Women of the Year Awards at Carnegie Hall
According to unsealed documents from several lawsuits brought against Theranos, other investors included: the founders of Walmart, who gave $150million; Rupert Murdoch, who invested $125million; Betsy DeVos who put in $100million. In addition to the scions of the Cox telecommunications family who lost a cool $100million, there was also the Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, Robert Kraft and the Oppenheimer family who once owned De Beers diamonds.
Holmes insulated herself with the most authoritative Board of Directors on the planet. It included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and well as Former Secretary of State, Labor and Treasury, George Shultz. It also included two former Secretaries of Defense: Bill Perry and James ‘Mad-Dog’ Mattis in addition to former senators, Sam Nunn and Bill Frist and retired Navy Admiral Gary Roughead – to name a few.
New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta said: ‘They were talking about her as if she was Beethoven, as if she was this rare creature that maybe only one in a century or two in a century come along who really can change the world.’
When he asked Kissinger to describe Holmes, the Secretary of State called her ‘an excellent businesswoman.’ He added: ‘You have to remember, she has a sort of ethereal quality. She is like a member of a monastic order.’ His only complaint were the four-hour-long board meetings which he called ‘a human rights violation.’
General James Mattis also gushed about Holmes before he left his post at Theranos to be appointed Trump’s Secretary of Defense. He told Auletta that she had ‘integrity’ with technical and scientific competence, and that she was ‘focused on human rights in the most classical sense.’
Holmes was able to seduce high-profile investors with the promise of Theranos. Some of the biggest investors included: the founders of Walmart, who gave $150million; Rupert Murdoch, who invested $125million; Betsy DeVos who put in $100million. In addition to the scions of the Cox telecommunications family who lost $100million, as well as the Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, Robert Kraft and the Oppenheimer family who once owned De Beers diamonds
In 2015, President Bill Clinton invited Holmes to speak at a panel for the Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting alongside Alibaba’s Executive Chairman Jack Ma
Prosecutors alleged that one of the many ways Holmes scammed investors was by misleading them to believe Theranos had military contracts. She claimed that Edison devices were being used on the battlefield in Afghanistan and in medical evacuation helicopters. Among her many deceptions was also a phony endorsement by Jim Mattis that was featured prominently in promotional material on the website.
In the recent trial, the disillusion four-star general said, ‘There just came a point when I didn’t know what to believe about Theranos anymore.’
After his visit to Theranos facility in 2015, then Vice President Joe Biden ‘a laboratory of the future.’ He continued, ‘You can see what innovation is all about just walking through this facility.’
But there was a problem with the vice president’s visit. ‘That was completely fake,’ explained former Theranos chief design architect Ana Arriola to ABC News. What Biden saw that day was completely rigged. They cleared out a room, slapped on a fresh coat of paint and stocked it with every Edison device they could find.
According to former employees, Elizabeth Holmes does not blink her eyes:
The 2019 HBO expose left the internet baffled by suggestions that Elizabeth Holmes doesn’t blink her eyes. Two former employees remarked on how Holmes never broke eye contact. ‘I know this seems odd but my first impression of her is that she didn’t blink,’ said the receptionist, Cheryl Gafner. WSJ reporter John Carreyrou echoed the same observation in his book: ‘The way she trained her big blue eyes on you without blinking made you feel like the center of the world. It was almost hypnotic’
In addition to her uncanny voice, the 2019 HBO expose also left the internet baffled by suggestions that Elizabeth Holmes doesn’t blink her eyes.
Cheryl Gafner, a former receptionist told the documentary about her first job interview with Holmes, ‘I know this seems odd but my first impression of her is that she didn’t blink,’ she said. ‘She was very intense.’
John Carreyrou echoed that same observation in his book: ‘The way she trained her big blue eyes on you without blinking made you feel like the center of the world. It was almost hypnotic.’
Dave Philippides, an engineer who also interviewed for a job recalled how the process was different that other tech companies in the Bay Area. ‘They didn’t tell me near as much about what they were doing and she never blinked during the interview.’
Much like how she has retrained her voice to be lower, some experts have speculated that creating intense eye contact is a conscious form of mind control that she has practiced.
Bulletproof glass windows, a hired security detail and a pathological obsession with secrecy:
Like her idol Steve Jobs, erstwhile employees recalled how Holmes was irrationally paranoid that confidential, proprietary information would leave Theranos headquarters. So much so, that when her topnotch scientist, Ian Gibbons committed suicide in 2013; Holmes callously called his wife demanding that she immediately return all confidential Theranos property instead of offering her condolences.
As President and COO, Sunny Balwani was put in charge of the company’s most secret medical technology, acting as Holmes’ fearsome enforcer in the workplace.
Together, they created a culture of unrealistic paranoia. Holmes had bulletproof glass installed in her office and hired a team of personal bodyguards that carried guns.
Employees realized that their email was being read when they didn’t copy-in Balwani, but still received responses from him. Receptionist Cheryl Gafner discovered that she was being keystroked, which means anything that she typed was being watched internally.
Departments were siloed as Holmes forbade all Theranos employees from communicating with one another about projects they were working on – which created a strange sense of executive omniscience, with Holmes and Balwani acting as Oz.
They demanded complete loyalty. If employees expressed doubt in the efficacy of the science, or feasibility of the Edison machines, they were derided by senior management that ‘maybe you’re not a Silicon Valley person.’
In one text exchange made public during the trial, Balwani complained about a negative internal review that was written anonymously by an employee. ‘CC’d you on terrible negative review from someone from Newark lab probably lugs lab. Working on getting that removed.’ He added, ‘I am narrowing this down on CUA. Down to 5 people. Will nail this motherf****r.’
Holmes replied: ‘I saw it. We’ll get them.’
‘It was very clear they were trying to hide something,’ said Micah Nies, a customer service manager to CNBC. ‘Every morning I woke up and wondered what they were going to spin today, while I was trying to find my exit strategy.’
Employees worked under a cloud of manipulation and intimidation. ‘The threat of litigation was always in the air when you worked at Theranos,’ Carreyrou told The Dropout. If anyone expressed misgivings internally, or worse – spoke to a regulator or reporter, Holmes and Balwani would send their attack-dog lawyer, David Boies to coerce them back in line or threaten legal action.
Tyler Shultz, a former lab worker turned whistleblower learned the hard way. His family mortgaged their house to cover $400,000 in legal defense fees after Boies dragged him through endless litigation. The fact that Tyler’s grandfather, George Shultz , was on the Theranos’ Board of Directors and an early champion of Elizabeth Holmes’ meant nothing.
19 YEARS OF THERANOS
2003 – Holmes dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to found Theranos, pitching its technology as a cheaper way to run dozens of blood tests with just a prick of a finger and a few droplets of blood. Holmes said she was inspired to start the company in response to her fear of needles.
2004 – Theranos raises $6.9million and is valued at $30million.
2007 – Theranos is valued at $200million.
2010 – Investors bought what Holmes was selling and invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the company. She said in a July Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing that it had raised $45million. It is valued at $1billion.
2013 – Theranos announces partnership with Walgreens.
2014 – Theranos was worth more than $9billion and Holmes the nation’s youngest self-made female billionaire, hailed by Fortune magazine.
Elizabeth Holmes, founder and chief executive officer of Theranos Inc., speaks during the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, on November 2, 2015
February 2015 – In The Journal of the American Medical Association, a Stanford School of Medicine professor criticizes failure to publish anything in peer-reviewed biomedical journals. A notoriously secretive company, Theranos shared very little about its blood-testing machine with the public or medical community.
October 2015 – An investigation by The Wall Street Journal found that Theranos’ technology was inaccurate at best, and that the company was using routine blood-testing equipment for the vast majority of its tests. The story raised concerns about the accuracy of Theranos’ blood testing technology, which put patients at risk of having conditions either misdiagnosed or ignored, and Theranos temporarily halts finger prick tests.
June 2016 – Walgreens ended its blood-testing partnership with the company.
July 2016 – Department of Health and Human Services effectively banned Theranos in 2016 from doing any blood testing work at all.
2018 – Holmes forfeits control of Theranos and agrees to pay a $500,000 fine to settle charges by the SEC that she had committed a ‘massive fraud’ that saw investors pour $700million into the firm.