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After months of taunts and tantrums, Martin Shkreli’s fraud trial gets underway

Martin Shkreli arrives for the first day of jury selection in his federal securities fraud trial earlier this morning in Brooklyn TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

Martin Shkreli’s day in court has arrived.

His own attorney labels some of the notorious pharma bro’s statements as preposterous. Banned from Twitter for harassing a female writer, he switched to other social media channels to talk investment strategies, boast about his purchases and wealth and castigate his critics.

Shkreli’s record as an investor and biotech exec is a stew of contradictions seasoned by overblown claims. He bagged an original album and an Enigma code-breaking machine of World War II fame — trophies that prosecutors used against him as Shkreli attempted to free up some of his bond money to pay debts. And his defense that he looted Retrophin in part to pay back the people whose money he lost at his hedge funds comes with the boast that his stock swap paid off big-time for his angry investors.

That’s the messy picture that his defense team will be both presenting and defending against as Shkreli’s long-awaited fraud trial gets underway.

“I’m excited,” Shkreli told the AP last week about his trial, with jury selection getting underway today. “I can’t wait.”

“I have this fringe theory that I’ve sort of stress-tested a little bit — the more polarizing and popular a case is, the more likely an acquittal,” he told the Financial Times.

Shkreli didn’t become infamous in biotech for starting or buying Retrophin or KaloBios, both now free of any entanglements. He owes his notoriety to Turing, a company which he started, bagging a cheap, old generic for $50 million and then hiking the price more than 5000%. In the process, he became a lightning rod for public criticism of price gouging on drugs.

Shkreli has defiantly — what else? — defended his pricing strategy, blaming Big Pharma for much worse. But it’s notable that none of the charges he faces in a Brooklyn courtroom have anything to do with drug prices. There are no laws that restrict pricing in the US. But he did help make it an issue that lawmakers continue to grapple with, even though nothing substantive has yet to be done about it.


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