Elizabeth Holmes Found Guilty On Four Charges

Andrew Donaldson

Born and raised in West Virginia, Andrew has since lived and traveled around the world several times over. Though frequently writing about politics out of a sense of duty and love of country, most of the time he would prefer discussions on history, culture, occasionally nerding on aviation, and his amateur foodie tendencies. He can usually be found misspelling/misusing words on Twitter @four4thefire and his writing website Yonder and Home. Andrew is the host of Heard Tell podcast.

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39 Responses

  1. Jaybird
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    says:

    Heh, I was just making one of these.

    Back in 2016, RTod had a real barn-burner of an article talking about the whole Theranos thing.Report

  2. Saul Degraw
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    says:

    She was found guilty of defrauding investors but not consumers. I guess because most consumers did get accurate results, just not with Theranos tech.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      I don’t know much about the case, but the Wikipedia says that when testing samples with non-Theranos tech, they would dilute the blood with water, resulting in inaccurate results. One of the selling points was that they could run many tests with far less blood than would normally be required, so the tech to get accurate results with the samples they collected didn’t exist at all, at Theranos or anywhere else.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      No Saul – because consumers aren’t supposed to have rights, much less to compensation in an oligarchy. The property of the investor class has to be protected at all costs.Report

      • Brandon Berg in reply to Philip H
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        says:

        Big triple-parentheses energy in this comment.

        I’m not saying you’re an antisemite, but you’re filling out the same Mad Libs sheet. There’s that same desperate need to believe that you’re being screwed over by a sinister cabal of malevolent others. Throw some echo marks around “oligarchs” and “investor class,” and nobody would notice anything amiss. It would change only the object of the unhinged resentment being expressed, not its fundamental nature.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw
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      says:

      IIRC, the tech was never fielded much beyond a few test markets, because they couldn’t get it to work. So while some consumers may have been defrauded, as a class, it never got that far, and, as you note, the places that were acting as test markets did make the effort to get the consumers accurate results.

      Legally, that may not make much of a difference (IANAL, so I don’t know), but I can see how a jury might decide that it’s a stretch.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw
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      A juror has comments on this here:

      Kaatz also said that, early on in their deliberations, the jury had decided to acquit Holmes on all four counts of fraud against patients, because the CEO was “one step removed” from the alleged victims, and thus the jury didn’t feel they were directly defrauded.

      That doesn’t sound quite right to me, but I don’t know the law and I didn’t hear the jury instructions.Report

      • Dark Matter in reply to Brandon Berg
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        It’s horse trading. Don’t bother putting a microscope on it.

        We had jury members who don’t want to convict on anything because she’s young, pretty, and pregnant. We had others wanting to convict on everything.

        So she gets off on “defrauding” consumers who were promised accurate tests and given accurate tests. She gets convicted on lying to investors.

        Not a bad compromise.Report

  3. Saul Degraw
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    says:

    Apparently her dad was an executive at Enron, the writers are such hacksReport

  4. DensityDuck
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    says:

    A) this was definitely “girl who’s spent her entire life being told that she wasn’t wrong falls for the Dark Triad and can’t figure out what to do”
    B) she still committed crimes, she knowingly made false statements to investors. That her boyfriend was telling her to do it and she couldn’t work out how to tell him “no” doesn’t mean she didn’t do it.Report

    • InMD in reply to DensityDuck
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      I watched one of the documentaries and IIRC there were professors at Stanford who specifically told her the concept would not work. She just believed she knew better.Report

      • Philip H in reply to InMD
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        America, where my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to InMD
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        Eh.

        I remember how there was an xkcd comic about how difficult it would be for a computer program to determine whether there was a bird in a picture and what kind of bird it was. The punchline was “that’ll take about five years”, and the comic noted that AI researchers had spent fifty years on such a task.

        A month later, Flickr added that feature (which didn’t work especially well, but it didn’t *not* work.) Three years later there were full-feature standalone applications doing it, and now it’s something so cheap to make that you can get it for free.

        You don’t really know what’s possible until you do it.

        If you want to say “yeah but doing what she wanted required major advances in the state-of-the-art for physical testing and she clearly did not understand that, and she didn’t have a backup plan for when it turned out her idea would take a lot longer than she’d said,” you’re not wrong, but it is wrong to say “it was totally impossible and the silly girl should’ve known better.”

        Like, the failure here was not in vision, the failure was in management; management of technical execution and schedule estimating, and management of investor relations.

        ****

        Holmes really wanted to be Steve Jobs, but he had two things that she didn’t: Steve Wozniak and iTunes.Report

        • InMD in reply to DensityDuck
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          says:

          Well, as I said to Philip above, I don’t begrudge the attempt at all, it’s the lying about the results.

          It’s also a bit different from a purely technical problem. Obviously I am not a doctor or biologists but my understanding of what she was advised at Stanford is that there are certain properties of human blood that make a minimal volume of it necessary to conduct reliable tests. Maybe they will find a way to do what she was attempting eventually but their position was that it will take more than better machines/better analytics.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD
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            Right, it’s a stats/probability problem. In order for a test to have a good result, you need to verify that you have a given ppm or ppb value, which requires having millions or billions of parts to measure against. The smaller the total volume, the harder it is to statistically prove you have the required concentration of whatever you are testing for.Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to DensityDuck
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          says:

          This is a reasonable issue with computers, where improve the software and you have near-magic upgrades in performance and function.

          Theranos was a chemistry company. Massive improvements in the basic functionality of chemistry is harder.

          Worse, getting large amounts of blood is (literally) painful and problematic with babies. The test industry has been under pressure to reduce the amount of blood needed since day one.

          The root problem is we insist on having accurate medical tests; As the amount of blood tested is lowered, the margin of error goes up.

          The problems are well understood, the trade offs are well understood, this isn’t an issue that no one has ever thought of where a bold player can just step in and do things.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to InMD
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        They were 30 years too soon. Researchers are now finding ways to use nanostructures to identify the presence of specific molecules in very small blood samples. In another decade, it’s likely that the kinds of claims the company that would become Theranos was making in 2003 will be in use.Report

  5. Pinky
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    I’ve said this before, I’m practically obsessed with the notion of what could have been done with that seed money in medical diagnostic equipment a few years before covid. She’s a candidate for Person of the Year, in terms of opportunity cost. If she’d listened to others, aimed for reasonable goals, et cetera, would we have had finger-prick 5-minute covid testers in every pharmacy in the world?Report

    • InMD in reply to Pinky
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      Probably not. She’d have been better off at some vaporware company. She may have still gotten sued eventually by the shareholders or the board but I think prosecution would have been much less likely. Her biggest error was attempting this in a regulated industry.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Pinky
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      She was clearly trying “fake it until you make it”.

      What she was trying to do was somewhere between very hard and impossible. She didn’t know that.

      Her High School background was in computer science, her college freshman background was… Chemical engineering? I’m not sure what a Freshman in Chem Eng can reasonably be expected to know. Worse, a lot of Chem Engs change out of that field because it’s really hard.

      Far as I can tell, there’s a ton of what we should view as propaganda on her background. She was a kid with an idea and the willingness to take chances, the idea didn’t work.

      The basic problem is it’s really hard to measure stuff off a drop of blood. Your margin of error becomes breathtakingly large.Report

  6. Kazzy
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    says:

    Color me stupid but what does one have to do to be guilty of defrauding investors? Where is the line between sales pitch and fraud?Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Kazzy
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      says:

      My technology works and is currently being used in Walgreens.

      My technology will work and major corporations have expressed interest in using it.

      2nd one is a start up, 1st isn’t.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Dark Matter
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        says:

        So she did the first one?Report

        • Dark Matter in reply to Kazzy
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          says:

          Yes. She told everyone it was working (as opposed to under development) and had already been rolled out.

          That’s just the bare bones. She had nothing but lies in a $10B company. She lied to her investors, to WalGreens, to her employees, and so on and so on.

          She did a ton of work to maintain this house of cards. Everything from the black sweaters (making her look like Steve Jobs), to deliberately maintaining stares to make herself look intense, to lowering her tone of voice.

          We’re DEEP into manipulation with no engineering backing it up.

          With that as the kind of person she is, I expect (with zero evidence) she got pregnant when she did to play the sympathy card on the jury.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Dark Matter
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            says:

            “ Yes. She told everyone it was working (as opposed to under development) and had already been rolled out.

            That’s just the bare bones. She had nothing but lies in a $10B company. She lied to her investors, to WalGreens, to her employees, and so on and so on.”

            This seems rightly actionable.

            “ She did a ton of work to maintain this house of cards. Everything from the black sweaters (making her look like Steve Jobs), to deliberately maintaining stares to make herself look intense, to lowering her tone of voice.”

            This… not so much. Unless of course we pursue charges against every black sweater wearing, intense staring CEO.Report

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