All In Vein
Elizabeth Holmes will be remembered for her crowning achievement — the orchestrator of a colossal fraud
I’ve been obsessed with the story of Theranos. I’ve written about it extensively. I’ve consumed every podcast, TV show and book on the topic. And while I loved following the rise (with more than a bit of skepticism), the downfall has been even more captivating. The dirty laundry the saga exposed — greed, lies, toxic culture, venture capital delusion and sheer fucking hubris — was a fascinating peek at the filthy underbelly of entrepreneurship and the wrongly heralded ‘fake it till you make it’ strategy.
Ultimately, Holmes was sentenced to over 11 years in prison (her cofounder Sunny Balwani got nearly 13 years). With that ruling, one of the most interesting stories of the past decade came to a close.
Or did it?
Just last week, as Holmes edged closer to starting her prison term, a maddening article appeared in the New York Times. It was titled Liz Holmes Wants You to Forget About Elizabeth. The story tried to give Elizabeth (or Liz, as she now prefers) a persona shift. She was never the sociopathic fraud who conned investors out of hundreds of millions and put people’s lives at risk. No, she was a loving partner and mother of two who liked going to the zoo. The strange deep voice, the Steve Job black turtle neck, the intimidatory personality? It was “not authentic,” adopted by Holmes to ensure she was taken seriously.
The timing of the article wasn’t a coincidence; the attempt to distort reality appeared only a week and a bit before Holmes was back in court, this time to see if she could remain free while she appealed her jail sentence for the blood-testing hoax. However, if the article was designed to sway the judge or increase the chances of leniency, it failed.
On May 17, Holmes lost her latest bid to avoid prison and was ordered to report for jail on May 30. If that bad news wasn’t enough, the judge slapped both cofounders with an enormous restitution bill of 452 million dollars. (It could have been worse; prosecutors had been pushing for a restitution penalty in the $800 million range.)
Some of the notable restitution payments include: