The trial of Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos)

Next we’ll find out that, having flunked out of Stanford, she actually has a degree in Advanced Marketing from Wossamotta U.

I’m in the UK I’ve not heard of this lady before. I’ve watched a couple of youtubes of her speaking but I’m not seeing this exceptional charisma others have mentioned. Can anyone link to a clip?

I don’t think you’ll find her charismatic by watching some youtube video. The proof of her charisma is demonstrated by her success in getting people to buy in to what she’s selling. She got a lot of rich people to give her an excessive amount of money based on nothing. She had a company full of people who believed 100% in her vision. In 2008, the Theranos board called her to a meeting with the intention of forcing her to step down because of some missteps. Over the course of two hours, she convinced them all to leave her as CEO. This was done without any facts to support her position (because there are none) - it was solely due to her charm and power of persuasion.

Of course, her charisma didn’t work on everyone. Her professor at Stanford told her she was full of shit, many employees saw through it and are currently testifying against her at trial, and many VC firms wanted nothing to do with Theranos. So sure, some people here don’t find her charismatic. But there’s no denying that she is to a sizable population.

But some of those same employees also testify to her charisma, and say they were influenced by it, and supported her much longer than they should have because of it.

I’m not sure how much of her charisma will be apparent while watching a YouTube video. It might only work in person.

I think you just have to be susceptible to “charismatics” to be influenced by it. Most people who have been called very charismatic that I’ve met IRL have come across as creepy to me. I can feel people trying to manipulate me, and it pisses me off more than anything.

It certainly helps to be predisposed to want to believe what the con artist is selling you. If you don’t believe in their pitch and are looking for signs of manipulation, they are obvious. I pegged Bill Clinton as a sleazy lying slimeball in his original run at the presidency but the press was so impressed with his Kennedy-esque charisma that they deliberately ignored a lot of the shadiness in both his personal and professional behavior. Later, when it came out that yes, he was actually lying about Lewinsky (and Gennifer Flowers and Paula Jones) to protect his reputation (besmirching their reputations in the process) and selling access to the White House for campaign contributions, I found the surprise and outrage laughable. When Heraclitus (purportedly) said, “Character is destiny” that is exactly what he was talking about.

That being said, Tyler Schultz reported repeatedly going into Holmes’ office to discuss the issues that he was seeing with how development didn’t match reported efficacy and walking out feeling convinced by whatever explanation she presented to him, only to wonder ten minutes later, “What just happened?” Some people have a real knack at gaslighting even if you are expecting it.


A few things happened this week in the trial that highlight Holmes’ charisma and how it still seems to be a factor. The former CEO of Safeway testified about their contract with Theranos and the growing red flags he saw as deliveries were constantly delayed.

“There are very few people that I’ve met in business that I would actually say were charismatic,” Burd said Wednesday. “She was clearly charismatic. She was very smart…whenever she was talking, she owned the room.”

One of the jurors was dismissed after stating her Buddhist beliefs would interfere with her ability to render a verdict.

“I’m thinking of all the time she’ll be in jail…It’s very hard for me. I’m thinking what happens if she has to be in there for a long long time and I’m out here. I’ll feel like it’s my fault.” The woman said she kept thinking about punishment “every day.”

The replacement alternate juror then expressed concerns about finding Holmes guilty because she was worried about impacting Holmes’ future. That juror was allowed to stay after saying she would still be able to reach a verdict.

These jurors evidently didn’t raise these concerns during jury selection. It seems like Holmes manages to charm people, or at least elicit sympathy, just by sitting there quietly.

Certainly at the beginning I don’t think she was. But later on she sure was.

It’s clear this started out as a person coming up with an idea that they didn’t realize could not work. Eventually, it became a desperate kick-the-can-down-the-road scam. It’s often not easy to tell precisely when the line was crossed.

It doesn’t have to be a woman. Attractiveness in men has a huge impact on business success, too.

Seriously… concerns about ruining her life???

Can’t even… — I mean, a few million people young and old, male and female, black and white, of nonprivileged social status would wonder if any of their jurors ever cared about a conviction ruining their lives.

I wonder if it would be proper to make that part of jury selection questioning.

Prosecutor: Juror Number 2, the defendant is accused of detonating a bomb that killed 300 children, after hacking his mother to death with a machete. If the evidence shows, could you convict him of murder?
JN2: I don’t know. That might ruin his life.

I’ve heard of jurors reluctant to convict on that basis, where the defendants (and possibly the jurors as well) were not exactly from the upper crust.

Case in point - a guy beat a doorman to death outside a San Francisco strip club.

"During the second day of deliberations, the foreperson sent the trial judge the following note: " ‘One of the jurors,’ " the note stated, " 'feels that in his heart of hearts [he] can not follow . . . the instructions. His emotions run so far as to saying “one man’s life has been ruined, how can we ruin another man’s life[?]”

Note: the reluctant juror was discharged and a (presumably less soft-hearted) alternate was seated, and a conviction was obtained, but the appeals court threw out the conviction, after which the defendant was again found guilty, and appealed yet again, but this time the verdict was upheld.

As for Holmes, I’d be OK as a juror with “ruining” her life, for a good 10 years at least. That would allow plenty of time after prison to recruit investors for a new venture, like Max Bialystok in The Producers.

She is going to (hopefully) spend several years in a minimum security prison, which isn’t pleasant. But she’ll be most unlikely to get shanked in the shower. She will then emerge to never have to work a day in her life because her husband is rich. If he divorces her at some point she’s in CA and she will still get a decent divorce settlement and still never have to work. And if she does get hard up for pin money, she can always ghost write some bullshit book explaining how she was persecuted and duped.

Her life won’t be ruined. It will be curtailed.

If that.


I do hope the prosecution makes it damn clear they were in fact starting to deploy the bogus technology to make bogus diagnoses. Though we know the defense is gonna be “well, you can’t prove anyone died of it, can you? And why wasn’t some Health Agency auditing it?”

Insofar as the sympathy building we also already know that one of the lines on that front is going to be “but what about all those greedy venture capitalists, and about those politically connected Old White Men on the Theranos Board? How about them, huh, huh, huh?” Like I mentioned earlier I’ve already heard people you-go-girl’ing her over having embarassed the likes of Shultz.

So yeah, I suspect the strategy will be to put into the jury’s head the question “Why wasn’t somebody else responsible for stopping this? Really, this young female entepreneur is only guilty of not knowing when to give up.”

It’ll be interesting to see what disparities ensue in the trial outcomes for Holmes and “Sunny” Balwani.

He’s foreign-born and not blonde, so that could work against him.

And also, if you believe the accounts in Bad Blood, a raging asshole.

Interesting. The movie didn’t particularly make that point.

A product manager who managed some of Theranos’ demos for investors gave damaging testimony yesterday.

Machines that were shown to investors often ran a “demo app” that would prevent error messages from displaying on the device’s screen or a “null protocol” that wouldn’t analyze the sample.

In another demo that tested blood in different Theranos machines, the results didn’t agree, so Holmes instructed them to change the reference range for the test so it would appear both samples tested within the normal range.

Well, not quite; from the article:

In one notable demo given to an unnamed person in New York in June 2013, Theranos tested the person’s blood twice—once in New York and again at the company’s lab at its California headquarters. The two different runs gave different results. “The discrepancy will be a problem. We need to see if we can correct for it,” Holmes wrote in a group email. In response, Daniel Young, a Theranos executive, told Edlin to change the reference ranges, which would cause the results to appear to fall within the normal range.

This is the kind of thing that may allow Holmes to avoid direct culpability; if the defense can show that she did not give direct instructions to alter reference ranges or alter results, and was not explicitly informed that this was being done, she can argue that she did not know even though as CEO she should have been aware and eyewitness testimony has indicated her awareness.