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Twists and turns in the Theranos trial

Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and her husband, Billy Evans

Good morning! This Friday, what we know so far in the Elizabeth Holmes trial, IBM has a strict new rule about vaccines, and the chip shortage spells trouble for the holidays.

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The Big Story

Checking in on Theranos

In Silicon Valley's eyes, Elizabeth Holmes seems to be very much presumed guilty rather than innocent. The industry has been quick to wash its hands of the CEO who used to be hailed as the next Steve Jobs.

But the dozen people sitting in the jury box (and the dwindling number of juror alternates remaining) haven't seen the headlines or read "Bad Blood." In their eyes, she's innocent until proven guilty, which is why the U.S. government has spent the last month calling everyone from General James "Mad Dog" Mattis to whistleblower Erika Cheung to the stand to convince the jury that Holmes intentionally defrauded investors and patients.

The trial is … an experience, with cameras swarming Holmes before she gets to the safety of the courthouse and lines filled with international media hoping for a ticket into the main courtroom.

  • It's turned into a bit of a spectator sport, too. There have been book clubs, FBI agents, documentary producers, Holmes cosplayers and other biotech executives all in the seats watching the proceedings.
  • The most unusual "concerned" observer ended up being Holmes' father-in-law Bill Evans who went undercover as "Hanson" to sit with reporters during jury selection.

But we're getting much deeper insight into the Theranos story than we've ever had before. Even if you think you've been keeping up, the trial is the first time we've heard Holmes' side of things — and we'll know more once we get to the defense's turn to call witnesses.

  • Holmes' lawyers have argued she is not the cheater and liar the U.S. government is making her out to be, but a young founder who made a lot of mistakes, surrounded herself with people she thought knew better and naively believed that the company's challenges could be overcome.
  • Holmes herself has sat practically unmoving every day with perfect posture, staring at the witnesses or looking at the jury.

The key witness so far was a new face. Former lab director — and, as "Alan Beam," one of the original whistleblowers in this saga — Adam Rosendorff endured five grueling days of cross and re-cross examination from the defense.

  • His testimony has closely tied Holmes to problems in the lab, as he often raised concerns about the quality of the testing directly to Holmes. For example, after he asked her to delay the launch of testing in Walgreens over concerns over the quality of the tests, he found the normally composed CEO trembling in her office, but she went ahead with the launch anyway.
  • "I was very enthusiastic working at Theranos in the beginning. Over time, I came to realize that the company really valued PR and fundraising above patient care, and I became very disillusioned," Rosendorff said on the stand.

Holmes' defense has struggled to undermine testimony from Rosendorff, other former employees, board members and partners who all said the company struggled with faulty lab tests and had investors believing Theranos used all of its own devices.

  • Whistleblower and former Theranos lab worker Cheung compared some quality control tests to "flipping a coin" and the failures of the devices made her refuse to run patient samples on them at times.
  • Safeway's former CEO Steve Burd said he thought his company was buying "disruptive" technology, but years into the contract didn't have a single testing device in its stores, despite spending millions of dollars to build clinics that were ready for them.
  • Theranos was also burning millions of dollars a week and often saw its revenues shrinking, according to its former controller, even as it publicly projected huge numbers.

So will Holmes go to jail? This week, another juror left the trial after she found herself troubled at the idea of sending Holmes to prison. It could be a bad sign for Holmes that jurors are already thinking about sending her to jail — but it could also be a good sign that making her sympathetic to the jury is working if they're struggling with the idea of putting her away. At the snail's pace this trial has been going, let's hope we get an answer by the end of the year.

— Biz Carson (email | twitter)

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People Are Talking

The chip shortage may give Santa a tough time, Intel's Pat Gelsinger said:

  • "There is some possibility that there may be a few IOUs under the Christmas trees around the world this year."

On Protocol | Fintech: Square's Afterpay acquisition is a sign of "buy now, pay later" things to come, PayPal's Greg Lisiewski said:

  • "I think that deal itself was a moment of consolidation that will probably play out a few more times before the dust settles."

Stablecoins shouldn't be treated like casino chips, Steven Mnuchin said:

  • "If you are going to issue a stablecoin, the actual money should go be held in a regulated bank, in a trust account and the people who hold the stablecoins should be able to exchange those for real dollars at any time."

Binance is going from no headquarters to several headquarters, CEO Changpeng Zhao said, and Ireland is part of the plan:

  • "It's very clear now [that] to run a centralized exchange, you need a centralized, legal entity structure behind it."

Making Moves

Tesla is moving to Texas. It's keeping its Fremont factory, but it's going to be an Austin-based company from now on.

Starry is getting SPAC'd. The broadband services firm is going public in a deal that could have a value of $1.66 billion.

Michael Shapiro is Apple's new corporate treasurer, Bloomberg reported. It's part of a bunch of other promotions within the company.

Bret Taylor thinks he'll be Salesforce CEO soon, sources told The Information. Taylor is the company's COO and president, and has been widely considered Marc Benioff's heir apparent.

Salvador Malo is Fragomen's new chief people officer. Malo was Microsoft's global head of HR strategy.

Rosie Perez and Scott Wagner joined DoubleVerify's board. Perez is SVP and CFO of American Express' global commercial services, and Wagner is a former GoDaddy CEO.

In Other News

  • Microsoft will let more repair shops fix its products, marking a big win for right-to-repair advocates. The company signed an agreement to let non-authorized providers patch up its Surface computers, among other changes.
  • The Silenced No More Act is now law, after California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it last night. It now offers much more protection to whistleblowers who violated their NDA.
  • IBM rolled out a super-strict vaccine mandate. The company is requiring employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by early December or face unpaid suspension.
  • Google and YouTube are demonetizing climate deniers. The new policy goes into effect next month, but as always, execution will be everything.
  • On Protocol | Workplace: When men share their salary, everything changes. People are well aware of the gender pay gap in tech, but when men say it aloud, it's led women to quit their jobs or ask for higher pay.
  • Ireland changed its corporate tax rules. It signed onto a deal that would set a 15% minimum tax rate for multinational corporations, many of which are headquartered in Ireland because of its previously low rates.
  • Facebook is trying to get more creators in VR. The company is dropping $10 million on a creator fund for Horizon Worlds. The money will be dispersed over the next year.
  • Russian cyberattacks are increasingly focused on the U.S. government, according to a Microsoft report. Just over half of cyberattacks from Russian nation-state actors hit government agencies this year, up from 3% last year, and the U.S. was among the top countries targeted.

One More Thing

Speeding up the airport trip

The dreaded holiday travel will soon be upon us, but maybe a ride-hailing app is your friend this year. Uber is rolling out some changes in hopes of making your trip to the airport a little more bearable.

In select cities like Portland and Seattle, you can book a ride to the airport about a month in advance. And if you really don't want to wait around for your ride, the company will offer an hour of complimentary wait time at no additional cost (don't worry, drivers will be compensated). It'll feel like your relative was waiting for you to hop off the plane the whole time.

A MESSAGE FROM FACEBOOK

We've invested $13 billion in teams and technology over the last 5 years to enhance safety. It's working: In just the past few months, we took down 1.7 billion fake accounts to stop bad actors from doing harm. But there's more to do. We're working to help you connect safely.

Learn more

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to sourcecode@protocol.com, or our tips line, tips@protocol.com. Enjoy your day, see you Sunday.

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