Who is Elizabeth Holmes and why was she found guilty in the Theranos scandal?

According to the Forbes magazine, she was “The world’s youngest self-made female billionaire”. She was dubbed the “next Steve Jobs” by the magazine “Inc.” which is another business publication that featured her on its cover page.

Elizabeth Holmes, who was 30 years old at the time, was on the top of the world in 2014. She was a Stanford University dropout who established a $9 billion enterprise that was supposed to revolutionise disease diagnosis.

Theranos claimed that its Edison test (Edison was the name of the diagnostic machine), which only required a few drops of blood, could instantly identify diseases like diabetes and cancer without the inconvenience of using needles.

But by 2015, the cracks were beginning to show, and a year later, Holmes was shown to be a fraud. The technology she praised was completely useless, and by 2018, the business she formed had failed.

She was found guilty on four counts of fraud in California, each of which carried a potential 20-year prison term.

Four other accusations were dropped against her, and the jury was unable to make a decision on three further offences. A new trial was not granted to Holmes, who had pleaded not guilty to all of the allegations.

She received an 11-year and 3-month prison term and reported prison on 30th May 2023.

Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, Holmes’ ex-boyfriend and business partner, was accused by Holmes during the trial of sexual and emotional abuse that affected her mental condition at the time of the alleged crimes.

Balwani, 56, who was charged with the identical fraud offences, was found guilty and imprisoned.

Pressure Filled Beginnings:

Even though Holmes’ actions have been the focus of a book, HBO documentary, TV show, Movie and more, it is still unknown why she took such a risk with a piece of technology she was aware didn’t work.

She was raised in a comfortably wealthy family in Washington, DC, and was remembered by those who knew her as a pleasant but reserved little girl.

Richard Fuisz, an 81-year-old businessman and inventor, hypothesised that Holmes must have been under tremendous pressure to be successful. Years of living next door to the Holmes family stated it as observed.

Although Holmes’ parents worked as bureaucrats on Capitol Hill for a large portion of their careers, he claimed that “they were very interested in status” and “lived for connections.” The family was very aware of its ancestry because her father’s great-great-grandfather developed Fleischmann’s Yeast, which revolutionised the American bread industry, according to him.

In a letter to her father when she was nine years old, the young Elizabeth stated that she really wanted out of life is to discover something new, something that mankind didn’t know was possible to do.

She developed the concept for a skin-patch that could check the wearer for illness and release antibiotics as necessary when she first arrived at Stanford University in 2002 to study chemical engineering.

Dr. Phyllis Gardner informed Holmes that her plan would fail.

She showed obstinacy at the age of 18 that would reportedly persist and motivate the business she would create the following year.

Clinical pharmacology specialist at Stanford Phyllis Gardner reported telling Holmes that her skin-patch idea wouldn’t work after discussing it with Holmes.

According to Dr. Gardner, “She just stared through me”.

And she simply exuded an unwavering confidence in her own greatness. It bothered me that she wasn’t interested in my expertise.

Meteoric Ascent:

Later, at the age of 19, Holmes left Stanford and founded Theranos, developing what seemed to be a revolutionary method of testing blood from straightforward finger prick.

Despite not having access to audited financial statements, influential people were captivated and they invested.

Her supporters included US Treasury Secretary George Schultz, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Waltons, the wealthiest family in the country.

Her credibility was enhanced by the backing and her demeanour.

Dr. Jeffrey Flier, the former dean of Harvard Medical School, visited her for lunch in 2015 and remarked, ”I knew she’d had this brilliant idea and that she had managed to convince all these investors and scientists.”

Dr. Flier, who never formally evaluated her technology, continued, “She was self-assured, but when I asked her several questions about her technology she didn’t look like she understood.” “It seemed a little off; I didn’t think it was a scam.”

In 2015, she shared stage with former US President Bill Clinton. At the time, Ms. Holmes was described as the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world.

When a whistle blower expressed concerns about Theranos’ flagship testing equipment named as, the Edison, in 2015, things started to fall apart. The wall Street Journal published a series of stinging exposes alleging that the results were erroneous and that the company had conducted the majority of its testing on widely accessible equipment made by other manufacturers.

Numerous lawsuits were filed, partners broke of their relationships, and in 2016 US regulators barred Holmes from running any blood testing business for two years.

Theranos was disbanded in 2018.

In March of that year, Holmes reached a civil settlement with financial regulators over allegations that she had defrauded investors out of $700 million.

However, Mr. Balwani and she were both taken to custody three months later on suspicion of conspiring to commit wire fraud.

She allegedly deliberately misled patients about the tests and greatly overstated the firm’s performance to financial investors, according to the prosecution.

Commentators noted that Holmes held fast to her original account as the Theranos controversy moved towards trial, and others who knew her expressed scepticism that she had changed.

Since the trial, Holmes and his 27-year-old partner William “Billy” Evans, an heir to the Evans Hotel Group, have been residing in California. She has two kids now.

Holmes’ attorneys had argued that because she posed no threat to society, she should not be sentenced to prison. More than 130witnesses, including Senator Cory Booker, spoke in her favour.

However, the prosecutions claimed that she was “blinded” by ambition and “will continue to put people in the harm’s way” because of this.

They said in court documents that “She accepts no responsibility.” On the contrary, she is adamant that she is the victim.

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