back to article Theranos' Holmes admits she slapped Big Pharma logos on lab reports to boost her biz

Theranos boss Elizabeth Holmes admitted in court this week she personally added Pfizer and Schering-Plough logos to her startup's presentations while trying to seal a deal with Walgreens. Giving testimony on Tuesday during her fraud trial, the one-time chief exec damningly revealed it was her idea to place the pair of Big …

  1. spuck

    "I wish I had done it differently." ...a phrase I'm sure has been oft uttered inside a court room.

    1. Steve Crook

      Which is just another way of saying "I wish I'd done it differently because I'd probably never have been caught"

    2. gotes

      "I wish I hadn't got caught"

    3. WanderingHaggis

      In other words I was wrong in what I did. Admission of guilt.

      1. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Admission of guilt...

        Framed as an admission of innocence: "It never occurred to me that it was wrong, I was only trying to be nice" said the attractive, young, blond lady who obviously would never defraud anyone...

        Hopefully the jury won't see it quite like that.

        Paris, obviously, because if cross questioning gets mean there will be tears... "nasty man made me do it".

        1. R Soul

          Re: Admission of guilt...

          I wonder what excuse she'll tell the court for using test machines from other manufacturers and pretending the results came from the Theranos ones that didn't work?

        2. W.S.Gosset Silver badge

          Re: Admission of guilt...

          > "nasty man made me do it"

          Believe it or not, she has/is already running precisely that line of defence. (Ex-)boyfriend forced her to do all these bad things against her will, etc.

          You should be a lawyer, mate. You clearly have the gift.

          1. CrazyOldCatMan

            Re: Admission of guilt...

            You should be a lawyer, mate. You clearly have the gift.

            That's a nasty thing to say!

  2. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Joke

    Somehow I don't think the court will be convinced

    This comment comes to you courtesy of a Pfizer vaccinated commentard. That's not an endorsement by Pfizer at all but it does allow me to name drop Pfizer several times.

    1. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Somehow I don't think the court will be convinced

      I've got pharmaceuticals from many of the worlds leading manufacturers coursing through my veins as we speak. And very evenly balanced I feel as a result. Couple that with my STEM degree and I claim expert witness status.

      [In the kingdom of the blonde, this tie-dyed girl is king]

      1. Youngone Silver badge

        Re: Somehow I don't think the court will be convinced

        Is one of them this guy?

    2. tmTM

      Re: Somehow I don't think the court will be convinced

      on trial for fraud. Freely admits fraud.

      Interesting move.

  3. Winkypop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Cloud cuckoo land

    No test required

  4. Alistair
    Windows

    modified COTs equipment

    I'm surprised the COTs vendors aren't jumping in here and suing the crap out of her and the rest, I'm *fairly* sure there are legal bits in purchase contracts about modifying the equipment (at least in terms of things like blood testing equipment, c.f. John Deere and all)

    1. mneimeyer

      Re: modified COTs equipment

      I bet there WILL be those clauses going forward but I could honestly believe they don't exist yet because WHY would ANYONE alter those types of machines?

      1. Wellyboot Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: modified COTs equipment

        So if the testing requires less blood wouldn't this be mentioned to the operators, if not then it's just more blood being flushed out at the end of the cycle.

        Ethically, if less blood is needed for a test then more tests can be done for the same level of patient impact.

        Any modification to the operating parameters of medical testing equipment requires that SOPs and technical documents be updated to reflect this*. Admitting in court that secret changes were made will likely bring the FDA into play with whole new set of charges and then the medical claims lawyers will pile in as well.

        * The underlying principle is that everyone can see how it's done and any issues will be brought to light, patent licencing allows the inventor to gain from widespread adoption of a good thing.

        1. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: modified COTs equipment

          Yes if you modify the equipment, you need to get FDA approval for the modifications. They are probably going to be less accurate than the version that the FDA approved.

        2. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: modified COTs equipment

          "So if the testing requires less blood wouldn't this be mentioned to the operators, if not then it's just more blood being flushed out at the end of the cycle."

          That's what they were going to be selling. Unfortunately for them, it turns out the original machines used more blood for a reason, and their attempts at diluting it made the results unreliable and worthless. They didn't like that, so they lied to pretend it worked anyway.

          "Admitting in court that secret changes were made will likely bring the FDA into play with whole new set of charges"

          They never got FDA approval. The FDA kept telling them they needed proof, and never got it. More lies were told about that though.

    2. BOFH in Training

      Re: modified COTs equipment

      Who do they sue? Theranos? I understand they went defunct in 2018.

      Can they sue the directors? Or the CEO? Or someone else from that company? Not sure how that works, but presumably they had insurance which covers legal costs for actions they took while in the company (at least Directors and other senior staff tend to have it, as I understand).

    3. Sherrie Ludwig

      Re: modified COTs equipment

      I'm surprised the COTs vendors aren't jumping in here and suing the crap out of her and the rest, I'm *fairly* sure there are legal bits in purchase contracts about modifying the equipment (at least in terms of things like blood testing equipment, c.f. John Deere and all)

      Suing for what? After the lawyers get through with this bunch, win or no win, there won't be a penny to claim.

    4. pavel.petrman
      Joke

      Re: modified COTs equipment

      Phew, a good thing, then, that Theranos didn't use a modified John Deere tractor for their blood tests. The test results would be slightly better than those of Theranos own machine, but in the court it could have ended up quite badly!

  5. Potemkine! Silver badge
    Trollface

    I use El Reg, Microsoft, Google, Wikipedia, Amazon and some others logos on my curriculum vitae, but i don't do this to trick anyone into thinking they had endorsed me.

    Is that a problem?

    1. mark4155
      Stop

      Is it a problem!?!?

      I guess you ain't got a job or interview with a CV full of bullshit logo's. Drop them all (Except perhaps El Reg) and you will soon be gainfully employed,

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is it a problem!?!?

        When they asked, "What tools I was most familiar with?" I had to say, shovel, non-descript Bedford van, and a roll of old carpet.

        I think the Autonomy logo helped almost as much as the El Reg one.

      2. EVP

        Re: Is it a problem!?!?

        I’d definitely hire an applicant with El Vulture on his/her CV.

        Tells more about tech skills than the usual bs people put onto their applications.

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Try using logos from organisations that don't have the ABC/AZ/MS type of reputation.

      Even mentioning El-Reg can't balance out that list!

    3. batfink Silver badge

      Do you now wish you had done that differently?

    4. Valeyard

      you have 11 upvotes, you are hereby approved by theregister.co.uk as a valued contributor to that respected publication

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Hung Jury!

    There's where she will get a retrial, and finally a slap on the wrist... A jury of regular Joes and Jills will have some members that will be fooled.

    1. CrackedNoggin Bronze badge

      Re: Hung Jury!

      A couple of days ago the WSJ ran a article titled

      Prosecutors in Elizabeth Holmes Trial Revealed Untruths, but Did They Prove Intent?

      Government’s contention of deception at Theranos will be tested by Ms. Holmes’s testimony: ‘These are hard cases to bring’

      I spit the coffee across the room when I saw that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hung Jury!

        simple rule of thumb, the more you steal the easier it is to get away with it , or just get a slapped wrist.

        comes down to:

        1. you have resources avaliable for you to confuse matters enough to get you off

        2. the rich fools you conned like to avoid being seen as the fuckwits they are!

        1. vtcodger Silver badge

          Re: Hung Jury!

          "simple rule of thumb, the more you steal the easier it is to get away with it "

          As long as you steal from the poor. Bernie Madoff made the mistake of stealing many billions from the wealthy. His sentence was 150 years.

        2. AnonEMusk Noel
          Pirate

          Re: Hung Jury!

          Many years ago i worked for Belkin in one of their distribution centres. One lunchtime a guy backed up onto a bay saying that he didn't have his paperwork but he knew he was booked in to pick up a load at this time.

          One of the loaders used his initiative and decided the driver must have been there to pick up X load. Half a million pounds worth of products were loaded onto the lorry and the driver was on his way.

          It was not too long after that the real guy turned up to pick up his load.

          I get this may be hard to believe, and there are obviously more key details that i don't recall or know that enabled such a fuck up to take place. But take place it did.

          Anyway, to the point of my tale....those in charge decided not to involve the Police because they did not want the accompanying bad publicity that came with it. Which beggars belief even further really

          1. hoofie

            Re: Hung Jury!

            You can steal more or less anything if you turn up with a high-vis jacket, a truck, clipboard and a big bucket of chutzpah

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hung Jury!

        Rupert Murdoch owns the WSJ and was a Theranos investor. Any influence that had on the above report is coincidental.

        1. hoofie

          Re: Hung Jury!

          The reporter who broke the whole Theranos story, John Carreyrou, worked for the WSJ which is owned by Murdoch and was given full reign and editorial support and ended up costing Murdoch a very large sum of money indeed.

          He is on record as saying their was no pressure put on him whatsoever

      3. LDS Silver badge

        "Untruths, but Did They Prove Intent?"

        I lied to customers and investor to get boatloads of money to live and be famous like a billionaire, but it was not my intent?

        Maddoff used the wrong line of defense?

        1. EVP

          Re: "Untruths, but Did They Prove Intent?"

          He also forgot misty eyes, the first line of defence in the current case.

      4. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Hung Jury!

        I spit the coffee across the room when I saw that.

        As did I.

      5. gnasher729 Silver badge

        Re: Hung Jury!

        In UK law at least, intent to commit a crime is not needed, just intent to do what you did. If you intentionally lie to your customers, intent to defraud them isn’t needed.

  7. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    "This work was done in partnership with those companies"

    Then it's simple :

    Powerpoint Slide 1 title : "Our Partners". Then you list the partners, and like that you can probably even use the logos.

    You're over 30, don't try to make me believe you've never seen this before.

    1. lglethal Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: "This work was done in partnership with those companies"

      Your honor, I could not possibly believe that I did something wrong in adding the Democrats logos to our Republican manifesto!

      Everybody knows that both the Democrats and the Republicans are equally involved in the process of creating laws, so I didn't think there would be any problem including both logos.

      Even if they don't agree with our conclusions, the Democrats are involved in the Process, so of course we can use their logo!

      Who would confuse it, as them endorsing our manifesto? I totally didn't mean to confuse anyone, honest your honor!

  8. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge
    FAIL

    Reverse engineered?

    So Theranos took Siemens kit and "modified" it to require a smaller sample... and then patented their mods!!! (I apologize for the excess of exclamation but serious, wtf?)

    And kept it secret... because they were worried Siemens would reverse engineer the mods?!

    And they thought this was ok?

    Imagine the uproar if Huawei had been caught doing something similar (probably don't have to imagine it, remember Tappy...).

    The only reason why Siemens' lawyers aren't straining at the leash is because there's no cash left.

    1. ibmalone Silver badge

      Re: Reverse engineered?

      No, they didn't patent the mods, this is the difference between a trade secret (where your "only" protection is contractual, but that can still be relatively strong because there is actually some legal protection for them which prevents competitors acquiring them through employees who have broken their non-disclosure for example), and patents, where the details are published and in exchange you get time-limited exclusivity. The downside to a trade secret is you don't have exclusivity if someone else reinvents the same process. From the description Theranos had not patented these modifications, because then trade secret wouldn't apply.

      The situation described (modifying the Siemens machines) may not have any come-back for Siemens unless it broke terms in their contract of sale, such as any reverse engineering. Might still have had legal issues about untested medical devices, but I'm not clear on US law in that area, medical devices are generally less regulated than pharmaceuticals. In any case, if prospective investors were required to sign NDAs (which I don't think is uncommon) then they would have still been eligible for trade secret protection (similar situation if you are still applying for a patent, where an NDA means it is not ruled out by being public knowledge).

      1. Ken G

        Re: Reverse engineered?

        As I understand it the "modification" was to the sample - diluting them with saline to get the volumes which the machines required from the smaller sample Theranos said they needed for their own device.

        This was evil. There was no way the Theranos device could work and Holmes knew it from a very early stage of prototyping. She fired the engineers who also knew and carried out all sorts of scams to hide the facts while soliciting more investments and licensing their blood test service for use on patients who really depended for their lives on the accuracy of their blood tests.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Reverse engineered?

          This was evil. There was no way the Theranos device could work and Holmes knew it from a very early stage of prototyping.

          No question. Just addressing the trade-secret vs patent issue and what conditions Siemens might have grounds for complaint.

        2. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

          Re: Reverse engineered?

          But...But... Artificial Intelligence!

          Anyone with some math skills knew this was a scam just from the press releases. AI can be an accurate tool for reducing data, but in increasing data means always means faking it.

          1. EVP

            Re: Reverse engineered?

            Artificial Intelligence for Artificial Results. Nothing wrong with interpolating/extrapolating, but I’m afraid AI results will be used in a wrong way all too often. Not even knowingly, but due to sheer stupidity.

      2. You aint sin me, roit Silver badge

        Patent

        According to the more detailed report on Ars they did file for a patent on the mods and requested that the filing be kept confidential.

        No doubt to hide it from Siemens lawyers...

        The "Trades secrets" aspect was her excuse for not telling investors.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge

          Re: Patent

          Thanks for the clarification.

          One can of course patent an improvement on an existing patent, again I'm not sure whether Siemens could complain about that at all, and even if the filling was confidential the patent if accepted can't be, so they'd find out anyway. If Theranos did patent something based on, for example, reverse engineering that they had a contract saying they must not do, then that'd put them in pretty sticky territory. Could Siemens force them to hand such a patent over? Don't know. Asking investors to agree to non-disclosure might be normal while the patent is still being approved anyway (for example, if planning international patents afterward).

          All of which is to say, I find the trade secret line pretty weak. But if they were worried about Siemen's lawyers then filing a patent, whether the filing is confidential or not, would have been pretty stupid as it will be made public on approval, that's the trade-off.

          Of course, there remains the possibility no-one involved at that stage actually knew what they were doing. But it seems simpler to ascribe all this to excuses to hide the information from their investors and pretend they had secret technology that actually worked, rather than admit, "We're using standard kit and diluting the samples, yes there's a reason the manufacturers don't suggest that."

  9. AnonEMusk Noel
    Angel

    At this point it's shit or bust

    Holmes and her legal team must surely be aware they have reached this point. There is nothing left to lose now so why not just answer every allegation or accusation by stretching incredulity as far as they possibly can.

    It's so absurd it can't be bullshit.....can it?

    I can even see her going down the road of some sort of mental illness copout if all else fails. 'Look at how she answered to her allegations your honour, she is clearly off her tits. She needs help'

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