Is disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes a sociopath?
That is the question asked by Vanity Fair‘s Nick Bilton – as Holmes is now traipsing around Silicon Valley looking to fund her new venture, despite very publicly committing fraud (according to the SEC). Let’s review how Holmes became “disgraced”:
- Lied to Walgreens, using “completely false test results from their blood tests”
- When the CFO of Theranos found out about the falsified tests, Holmes fired him on the spot
- Holmes told investors that they were going to rake in $100 million in revenue in 2014 despite being on track for $100,000 that year
- Holmes told the press her blood-testing machine could perform over 1,000 kinds of tests – when in fact it could only do one.
- Holmes lied about a contract between Theranos and the Department of Defense – telling people her technology was being used on the battlefield (it wasn’t)
- She also lied about her education, financial situation, and the impact she would have on the world
Pretty bad, yes? And now she’s apparently courting investors – who may or may not bother to perform their due diligence, such as browse her S.E.C. settlement which lists the word “fraud” seven times, reports Bilton.
While she recently settled with the S.E.C. for “massive fraud” as part of the agreement, Holmes is not required to admit wrongdoing, but she has been forced to surrender voting control of Theranos and comply with a 10-year ban from serving as director or officer at any public company (Theranos, ironically, wasn’t public.) Holmes also agreed to return 18.9 million shares of stock, once worth almost $5 billion and now worth nothing, and to pay a small $500,000 penalty. Of course, there is still a major criminal investigation underway by the F.B.I., one that could end with Holmes behind bars. -Vanity Fair
Holmes reportedly doesn’t she doesn’t think she did anything wrong – and apparently has quite the martyr complex.
“One person in particular, who left the company recently, says that she has a deeply engrained sense of martyrdom. She sees herself as sort of a Joan of Arc who is being persecuted,” says journalist John Carreyrou – who helped take Theranos down and authored the book Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup.
Which is where we get to the sociopath part. Bilton sat down with Carreyrou for a mutual “WTF”:
On this week’s Inside the Hive podcast, I sat down with Carreyrou to try to understand how Holmes acted with such deceit, knowing full well that the technology she was selling, technology that was used to perform more than 8 million blood tests, according to Carreyrou, was putting people’s lives in danger. The obvious question to seeing someone act that way, with such utter disregard for how her actions would destroy other people’s lives, is to ask: is she a sociopath? –Vanity Fair
“At the end of my book, I say that a sociopath is described as someone with no conscience. I think she absolutely has sociopathic tendencies. One of those tendencies is pathological lying. I believe this is a woman who started telling small lies soon after she dropped out of Stanford, when she founded her company, and the lies became bigger and bigger,” Carreyrou said. “I think she’s someone that got used to telling lies so often, and the lies got so much bigger, that eventually the line between the lies and reality blurred for her.”
And now, Holmes is apparently roaming around, looking for an entirely new batch of investors to dazzle.
As an aside, Theranos was represented by Tanya Chutkan – the judge in the frustratingly misdirected Awan fraud trial, when Chutkan was in private practice. Theranos also hired Fusion GPS to threaten the news media – which is why Chutkan, as an Obama-appointed Judge, had to recuse herself from two cases involving Fusion GPS.
What a small world, we’re sure.
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