Elizabeth Holmes trial - live: Former Theranos employees expected to take the stand as founder accused of ‘lying and cheating’
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The trial of Theranos founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes continues on Tuesday as prosecutors representing the US government will attempt to prove to the jury that it was the intent of Ms Holmes to mislead investors, patients, and doctors about what her blood-testing technology was capable of in order to get ahold of their money.
During the opening statement for the US government, a federal prosecutor said that Ms Holmes “decided to lie” because she was “out of time and out of money”.
“This is a case about fraud, about lying and cheating to get money,” Prosecutor Robert Leach said. He added that in 2009, Theranos was short on cash as it got less and less work, and the company could barely pay its employees.
Lance Wade, a defence lawyer for Ms Holmes, told the court: “Elizabeth Holmes did not go to work every day to lie, cheat and steal. The government would have you believe that her company, that her entire life, is a fraud. That is wrong. That is not true.”
Ms Holmes, 37, who has pleaded not guilty, founded her company in 2003 at the age of 19 after dropping out of Stanford. The goal of Theranos was to radically change how blood testing is done. She now faces up to 20 years in prison if she is found guilty of the charges.
Court documents have revealed that the defence team may argue that another Theranos executive, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, 56, who is also Ms Holmes’ ex-boyfriend, emotionally, sexually, and physically abused Ms Holmes. That meant that he was in control, not her, the defence may argue. Mr Balwani, who served as the president and chief operating officer after joining Theranos in 2009, is facing his own trial early next year and has forcefully rejected the claims of abuse. He has also pleaded not guilty.
Theranos was at one point valued at $9bn as the company promised that their technology could test for diseases like cancer and diabetes by just taking a few drops of blood with a finger stick. Ms Holmes partnered up with retail giants such as Walgreens and Safeway and could be seen on the covers of magazines where she was described as the richest self-made woman.
But a 2015 Wall Street Journal investigation into the company was the beginning of the end for Theranos, which was dissolved in 2018. The trial of Ms Holmes, which has been delayed several times by the pandemic and her pregnancy, is expected to take around 13 weeks.