‘Pharma Boy’ Defies Fraud Subpoena

Medicine

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Over the past three months, Martin Shkreli rarely passed up an opportunity to publicly mock his critics or justify a 5000%-plus price hike on a 62-year-old generic. He took to television, Twitter and a live stream online to repeatedly defend his position, claim he was planning to lower the price of Daraprim, renege on the promise and declare his innocence after being charged with multiple counts of securities fraud. But when it comes to a Senate probe into the price hike, Shkreli is taking the 5th.

U.S. Senator Susan Collins from Maine tweeted Wednesday evening that Shkreli is invoking his rights guarding him from self-incrimination, refusing to hand over documents her committee had subpoenaed for their probe into drug pricing. The move came shortly after a House committee subpoenaed Shkreli to testify at a hearing next week. And Collins has a problem with Shkreli’s position. “Counsel informed our Committee that Mr. Shkreli was categorically invoking the ‘Act of Production Privilege’ under the Fifth Amendment,” Collins tweeted. “Absent a valid justification for the grounds for invoking the Fifth Amendment, Mr. Shkreli’s assertion could hinder our investigation.” An outraged Shkreli responded: “I have valid justification. Are you serious? I have constitutional rights. No wonder trust in the US Government is at a low.”

About a week before Christmas, the FBI descended on Shkreli’s Manhattan apartment to bust him on charges that he had executed a “securities fraud trifecta of lies, deceit and greed” operating a defunct hedge fund as well as Retrophin, a biotech company he had founded and was subsequently booted from. He then went on to start Turing, where he bought Daraprim and jacked up the price from $13.50 a pill to $750. The resulting controversy ignited an online hate fest centered on a greedy pharma industry and Shkreli, which he managed to stoke by repeatedly jeering at anyone who questioned his actions. He was replaced as CEO of Turing and he was booted from KaloBios, another biotech he had claimed he wanted to save from going out of business. Arrested and charged on a federal indictment, he recently went back on television to once again declare his innocence. The Senate and House investigations, though, have nothing to do with the indictment. Whatever else Shkreli may have done, no one has questioned his legal right to hike the price. But for now, Shkreli’s stonewalling investigators who want to see more of the details about how he went about the move. As always, Shkreli remains defiant in the face of authority, or anyone else who questions his motives.

In 2013, after federal prosecutors indicted the two scientists at Eli Lilly, the case disintegrated and the charges were later dropped. And last fall, federal prosecutors dropped all charges against another Chinese-American scientist, Xi Xiaoxing, the chairman of Temple University’s physics department. He had previously been accused of sharing sensitive American-made technology with China but it later turned out prosecutors had misunderstood the science involved in the case.