Elizabeth Holmes goes on trial for Theranos fraud
The trial is a reckoning for Holmes, for Silicon Valley, and for faking it till you make it.
Elizabeth Holmes' fraud trial in San Jose started in earnest last week.
- This week: Do Theranos forecasts show fraud or failure? Prosecutors and defense attorneys argued over what Theranos' lofty revenue projections meant.
- How much did Elizabeth Holmes know? Her lawyers argue she isn't a villainous CEO, but a young, ambitious founder who believed so much in her (and her company's) vision.
- The Theranos trial is underway, and dozens of people lined up before dawn to get a seat in the courtroom.
- Silicon Valley's culture will be examined in the Theranos trial, but insiders want to forget Elizabeth Holmes.
- For former Theranos employees, the stain of such a public scandal is hard to wash away. But they don't regret working there for a minute.
Theranos by the numbers: Do forecasts show fraud or failure?
Elizabeth Holmes and her mother leave the courthouse in San Jose on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.Photo: Biz Carson/Protocol
Sept. 14, 2021
Theranos inflated its revenue projections when, behind the scenes, insiders knew the startup had widening losses and dwindling revenue, prosecutors argued on the second day of the Elizabeth Holmes trial.
The testimony was the first glance under the hood of Theranos, a blood-testing company which once promised to revolutionize the detection of disease. Holmes, its former CEO, is standing trial for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in San Jose.
One of the prosecution's key arguments is that Theranos wildly inflated its revenue projections to attract investors.
Fraud or mistakes? Opening trial arguments debate how much Elizabeth Holmes knewHolmes has pleaded not guilty to 12 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud. Photo: Nick Otto/AFP via Getty Images
Sept. 8, 2021
To the U.S. government, Elizabeth Holmes is a fraudster bent on lying and cheating to get money for her company while deceiving investors and the public on how little its lab work could actually do.
But Holmes' lawyers argue that she isn't a villainous CEO who purposefully deceived everyone. Rather, she's a young Silicon Valley founder who believed so much in her vision and product that she never sold a share and thought that the company's challenges could eventually be overcome.
"Elizabeth Holmes did not go to work every day intending to lie, cheat and steal," said Lance Wade, Holmes' attorney from Washington D.C.-based firm Williams & Connolly. "The government would have you believe her company, her entire life, is a fraud. That is wrong. That is not true."
The Theranos trial is underway. Here's what it looks like at the court.
TV cameras surround former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes as she enters the San Jose courthouse for her fraud trial. | Photo: Biz Carson/Protocol
Sept. 8, 2021
Spectators arrived in the middle of the night to get their place in line for the start of Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial. There were 30 people in line by 5:45 a.m. and a line snaked out the front gates of the courthouse before it even opened at 7:30.
Here to watch the trial is a mix of curious onlookers who have followed John Carreyrou's "Bad Blood" work, law students wanting to observe the trial, and a large mix of press including tech publications and international outlets from the U.K. and Norway. Seating is limited in the courtroom with only 34 seats open to the public and another 45 in an overflow room.
One of the more puzzling sights was three blonde women dressed in Holmes' typical style as CEO, with hair pulled back and a black turtleneck.
Silicon Valley wants to forget Elizabeth Holmes
Sept. 7, 2021
When Elizabeth Holmes stands trial this week, her defense could involve a few options. Her lawyers might argue she was abused by former Theranos COO and boyfriend Sunny Balwani and believed what he said was true, according to newly unsealed documents. (He denies it.)
Then there's another tack that's been hotly contested in the run-up to the trial: the "This is just how Silicon Valley works" defense.
Inevitably, it's not just Holmes on trial for the alleged fraud that vaporized a lab-testing company once worth nearly $10 billion. Silicon Valley's culture will be examined for its habit of enthusiastically embracing visionaries and supporting those who took a "fake it till you make it" approach that has let a lot of companies grow.
For former employees, the stain of Theranos is hard to wash away
Theranos headquarters. | Photo: Andrej Sokolow via Getty Images
Aug. 31, 2021
The first time Charlie realized that his time at Theranos might become a scarlet letter on his resume was in May of 2016.
It was a full seven months after reporter John Carreyrou published his first explosive exposé on the company, accusing Theranos' leaders of covering up serious accuracy issues with its widely hyped blood-test machines. Until that point, Charlie, a pseudonym for a former Theranos employee who agreed to speak with Protocol on the condition of anonymity, says he was "sipping the Kool-Aid," believing the company's CEO Elizabeth Holmes and COO Sunny Balwani when they said the Journal's accusations were bogus.
In the spring of 2016, though, Charlie saw for himself for the first time how the company's top brass was exaggerating its device's capabilities to outsiders — just like Carreyrou said they were. Charlie had just begun interviewing with other companies when the CEO of the very first startup he applied to stopped him short. "I was told by the CEO that their investors advised him not to hire anybody from Theranos, given what was going on in the media," Charlie said. "That was a wake-up call for me."