Surely the most extraordinary aspect of the criminal case against Elizabeth Holmes is the verdicts; out of eleven counts, she was guilty on only four, and acquitted of three relating to damage to patients. All the guilty verdicts related to the peculiarly American crime of wire fraud. As Matt Levine frequently points out, everything in the US is wire fraud, since it only needs one phone call or email to qualify. In the eyes of the jury, the misery, pain and distress inflicted on the victims of Theranos’ dud blood tests were insufficient for a guilty verdict.
The US justice system being what it is, there was always the chance that the jury would be seduced by Ms Holmes, just as so many big-shot investors had fallen for her charms. She is appealing against the verdicts, which to readers of Bad Blood, John Carreyrou’s brilliant account of the scandal, is hardly a surprise.
A significant proportion of the hundreds of millions of dollars the company raised from investors went not on the business it was supposed to be pursuing, but to hiring America’s most expensive lawyers. They were deployed against former employees, doctors who dared to suggest that the company’s finger-tip blood test was a sham, or Carreyrou’s employers at the Wall Street Journal. Intimidation by the threat of legal costs would have stopped a lesser investigation.