back to article Theranos' Sunny Balwani gets longer sentence than Elizabeth Holmes

Former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani was sentenced to 12 years and 11 months in federal prison and three years' probation on Wednesday over a July conviction on 12 counts of fraud. Restitution will be decided at a later date. "Ramesh Balwani, in a desire to become a Silicon Valley titan, valued business success and …

  1. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

    Why is this statement (actually a perfectly reasonable statement in a quite conventional press release) described as "canned"? Does this imply the author at El reg disagrees with or disapproves of it? If so, we'd really like to know why.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

      > Why is this statement described as "canned"? Does this imply the author at El reg disagrees with or disapproves of it?

      Neither. It's journo speak for a statement that is prepared in advance, in anticipation that a certain question will be asked or certain information sought.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

        > Does this imply the author at El reg disagrees with or disapproves of it?

        To answer your other question, the only implication is that the response is not spontaneous.

    2. First Light

      Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

      As I understand it, "canned" means that the subject was not directly interviewed by the reporter. It's good journalism to point this out. It's about the journalistic process and does not reflect on the content of the statement. It's an Americanism. Here's a discussion about such statements (from politicians) from a Canadian journalist.

      https://j-source.ca/should-journalists-refuse-emailed-statements-as-substitute-interviews-with-politicians/

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

        Canned laughter.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

        > As I understand it, "canned" means that the subject was not directly interviewed by the reporter.

        Not quite. Canned statements are also common during press conferences. If you watch the EU Commission press briefings, they consist almost entirely of prepared statements.

        Of course, a good spokesman should arrive with his homework done, but they should also be able to give good answers on the spot. The problem with EC briefings is that when they're caught off guard they avoid answering the question altogether.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

      > Why is this statement

      It was a perfectly reasonable question (and I already answered it). I don't get why people vote you down. Are they reading whatever it is they want to read into your post rather than what you actually wrote? Bizarre.

      1. teknopaul

        Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

        Failure to apply "principle of most favouravle interpretation" perhaps.

        If you don't understand something, to follow the principle; presume the best possible interpretation and then ask for clarity with that in mind.

        If you ask and presume the worst the responder naturally is on the defensive, thus conflict.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "said US Attorney Stephanie Hinds in a canned statement."

          > If you ask and presume the worst the responder naturally is on the defensive,

          Huh? Where do you get this pseudopsychology from? Your corporate management training power points?

          The guy just asked a question, ffs.

  2. Tim99 Silver badge

    A lesson?

    Don’t take money away (steal) from the rich.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another lesson

      Don't be male and brown.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another lesson

        With my apologies to the septic audience. It's called sarcasm and it's in the dictionary.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another lesson

          Recommendations for a real UK tech news publication welcome.

          The fact that I can't stand the murican press is the only reason why I started reading el reg 20-odd years ago.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Another lesson

          The only thing worse than a bad racist comment is the inevitable justification once it starts receiving downvotes.

          1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: Another lesson

            Or doubling down with additional bigotry, the way what I assume was the original AC did!

            Imagine being such a coward that you would make a comment like that without even being willing to put a pseudonym to it. Posting it as AC is a clear indication that the AC knew it was a garbage comment and was not even willing to stand provisionally behind it.

            1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

              Re: Another lesson

              Or your racist assumption that ethnic minority males don't face any discrimination in the legal system compared to pretty blonde women ?

              Persecute the hereritc, burn the witch.....

              1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: Another lesson

                "Or your racist assumption that ethnic minority males don't face any discrimination in the legal system compared to pretty blonde women ?"

                Fair enough, I see your point. Have one on me.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Another lesson

                  > Fair enough, I see your point.

                  That is exactly the point being made all along.

              2. Claverhouse Silver badge

                Re: Another lesson

                Not withstanding the hideous American Penal System, statistically it's is possible that pretty blonde women are a smaller sub-sector of people facing charges than ethnic minority males --- or any other males.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Another lesson

              > Posting it as AC is a clear indication that the AC knew it was a garbage comment and was not even willing to stand provisionally behind it.

              I hate to disappoint you, but *every* one of my posts ever since there was an AC mode, is as AC, for reasons my own.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Another lesson

              Downvoted for drawing inference from a post being done as AC. There are more reasons to post as AC than just the ones you name.

              Also, AC isn't really, at least not to El Reg as it still needs an account behind it (read: it's not a means to be a complete moron as El Reg will sensibly act if you're going over the line).

              As for the rest, sigh. I'm looking forward to the day when sexual orientation and skin colour will have about the same value as the colour of one's hair (if still available): a way to distingiush one person from another, but with otherwise no further significance.

              Unless you're ginger.

              (sorry, couldn't help myself).

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Another lesson

            > The only thing worse than a bad racist comment is the inevitable justification once it starts receiving downvotes.

            If you're referring to this comment:

            > Don't be male and brown.

            Then that is mine and it is very much *not* racist. It comments on what the article already strongly implies: that the coloured gentleman who joined the company a few years after its founding, quit before its demise, invested (and lost) some of his own money in it, and had a position of less responsibility than the CEO, was given a harsher sentence than the blonde all-American Steve Jobs wannabe.

            Of course, if he's guilty then he'll have to take responsibility for it, but I find it difficult to believe that his gender and appearance were not a factor in his longer sentence. I may of course be wrong, maybe the jury were privy to details that I'm not aware of, or his lawyers were crap, but hey.

            My further comment comments on you Americans needing everything spelled out. As this follow-up demonstrates.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Another lesson

              That you Balwani? You should have stuck with your normal intelligent creative wife Keiko Fujimoto instead of dumping her for the sweet 18 Holmes, when you were 37. Sorry you got lead down the garden path, but you should have known better.

            2. Version 1.0 Silver badge
              Joke

              Re: Another lesson

              Let face it, the majority of "male and brown" people in the world get into the shower at night and sleep white. They are washing their colour off and watching the "u" go down the drain before they tell their wives that, "U need to wash my socks".

            3. Gort99

              Re: Another lesson

              Well, this is true. Women rarely receive a harsher sentence than men for the same offence. For evidence I would recommend listening to Lucy Worsely's podcast "Lady Killers" on BBC Sounds.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A lesson?

      Unless you make huge donations to the party in charge. We shall see how SBF gets treated.

  3. JoeCool Bronze badge

    Is Balwani offering testimony to support his assertion

    "The defendant's legal team argued Elizabeth Holmes was the leader,"

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is Balwani offering testimony to support his assertion

      One was the COO, the other was the CEO.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Is Balwani offering testimony to support his assertion

        He was also the president and in charge of day to day operation of the lab, which may be why he was charged with defrauding patients while Holmes wasn't - I believe that was the reason for their difference in sentence.

        “When employees questioned the accuracy of the company’s blood-testing technology, it was Balwani who would chastise them in emails (or in person),” wrote Nick Bilton in a Vanity Fair investigative report, adding in part, “He ensured that scientists and engineers at Theranos did not talk to one another about their work.”

  4. VoiceOfTruth

    Lawyers, eh

    -> Balwani’s attorneys urged for probation over incarceration

    Well they weren't going to argue for chopping his gonads off, were they?

    1. Dimmer Bronze badge

      Re: Lawyers, eh

      Thanks

      Needed the laugh

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Lawyers, eh

        Off with their goolies

  5. spireite Silver badge

    Why not in the clink now?

    So, he's to report in March, she in April?

    Why aren't they going in immediately after sentencing?

    And, if he was considered the main instigator they could do a Medical Jurassic Park....

    ...if he was the Theranos Rex...

    1. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: Why not in the clink now?

      If you're sentenced for white collar crimes they usually give you time to "prepare your affairs", just another perk if you're in the correct tier of the US' two tier justice system.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Why not in the clink now?

        Also they aren't exactly an immediate threat to society.

        If we don't keep them in custody they may go out and defraud other investors before April

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: Why not in the clink now?

          Well by that theory someone who murders their wife of 40 years isn't an immediate threat to society either (unless he's a bigamist) but they aren't likely to let him schedule the start of his sentence.

  6. chivo243 Silver badge
    Go

    We won't be seeing Sunny

    and he won't be seeing the sun.

    1. Red Ted
      Facepalm

      Re: We won't be seeing Sunny

      Given he has been sentenced to just under 13 years, what’s the soonest he could make probation?

      Assuming that, given his ability to fake medical results, he doesn’t pull an “Earnest Saunders” and gets let out early on account of a terminal illness that he miraculously gets better from. [“Earnest Saunders” is a British man convicted of significant fraud who developed Alzheimer's disease and had his sentence reduced. Mysteriously he seemed to get better from it.]

      1. James O'Shea

        Re: We won't be seeing Sunny

        There's no probation in the federal system. You serve the whole sentence, or the vast majority of it, or you know someone who knows someone who can get a senior politician, usually the Prez, to pardon you. Some get out very early because of this. Others never get out.

        You could get very sick, but the Feds generally require you to be _very_ sick, and check closely. Famously Al Capone got out early, because he had tertiary syphilis.

    2. aerogems Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: We won't be seeing Sunny

      It's Not Always Sunny In Balwani

      https://thetvdb.com/series/its-always-sunny-in-philadelphia

  7. DrBobK

    If the only victims had been Larry Ellison, Betsy DeVos, Rupert Murdoch, and the Walton family then Holmes and Balwani could have been noble heroes - unfortunately many, many other people suffered because of the Theranos fraud.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      When you steal from the rich, to give to the rich, the crime is incest not theft.

    2. R Soul Silver badge

      Many of those who suffered from the Theranos fraud lost something far more important than money: their health. The fraudsters machines didn't work. That meant some people got told they were sick when they weren't. Others were told they were healthy when they weren't.

      Rot in hell Holmes and Balwani. They're worse than scum.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Half Robin Hoods

      > If the only victims had been Larry Ellison, Betsy DeVos, Rupert Murdoch, and the Walton family then Holmes and Balwani could have been noble heroes

      Almost there. They just hadn't got around to giving to the poor.

      (To paraphrase a well-known British historical comedy)

  8. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    What were they thinking?

    As in, what did they think was going to happen? I mean they must have known their technology did not work, and that people were making literally life or death decisions based on their flawed tech and that soon the fact it did not work would come to light and there would be horrendous and very public medical negligence lawsuits (remember the Sackler - Oxycontin scandal). I simply do not understand how people can be so, well, stupid.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: What were they thinking?

      They thought they were going to get away with it. They aren't stupid. They just don't care.

      Harsh? Maybe, but it fits the evidence and I lack the imagination to come up with an alternative.

    2. Trigun

      Re: What were they thinking?

      There's a confidence that seems to go with high drive & ambition, and I think that confidence goes hyper and blinds people. It's not that they don't think that it could all go wrong, but they are confident that they can make it work before things go south. That mindset seems to stay in place right up until things fall to bits. Kind of like driving off a cliff.

  9. DonL

    "Balwani's counsel and the prosecution also differed on whether Balwani or Holmes were really leading the conspiracy."

    The Wikipedia pages are pretty telling though:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Holmes

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunny_Balwani

    "In the 1990s, Balwani worked for Lotus Software and Microsoft. During Balwani's tenure at Microsoft he worked in sales. He claims to have written thousands of lines of code; however, independent investigations could not verify this, and numerous Microsoft managers who were asked about him could not remember him."

    "In July 2000, Balwani sold his shares in Commerce One, netting nearly $40 million shortly before the company went out of business, just before the dot com bubble burst."

    "Holmes met Balwani in 2002 during a trip to Beijing as part of Stanford University's Mandarin program. Holmes was 18 at the time, and had just graduated from high school; Balwani was 19 years older than she was and was married to another woman at the time."

    "On November 29, 2021, Holmes testified that she had been raped while she was a student at Stanford and that she sought solace from Balwani in the aftermath of the incident. She also said Balwani was very controlling during their romantic relationship, which lasted more than a decade, and at times he berated and sexually abused her. In her testimony, she stated he also wanted to "kill the person" she was and create a "new Elizabeth"."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Assuming you blame Balwani then your evidence is informatively supportive up until the last paragraph.

    2. Potemkine! Silver badge

      "On November 29, 2021, Holmes testified that she had been raped while she was a student at Stanford and that she sought solace from Balwani in the aftermath of the incident. She also said Balwani was very controlling during their romantic relationship, which lasted more than a decade, and at times he berated and sexually abused her. In her testimony, she stated he also wanted to "kill the person" she was and create a "new Elizabeth"."

      Give a dog a bad name and hang him.

      Unless there's any proof or witness?

      == Bring us Dabbsy back! ==

  10. aerogems Silver badge

    I suppose

    In the end, being a reasonably attractive white woman who got herself knocked up DID have some impact on the sentencing. Clearly not as much as Mrs. Holmes would have preferred, but the Indian man who she accused of being an abusive partner got the objectively harsher sentence, even though Holmes was grifting before he came along.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I suppose

      Just your emotional speculation without even arguing over the convictions they shared in common and those that differed.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    American justice

    American injustice

    Stop giving the rich huge sentencing discounts.

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