The trial of Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos)

Jurors heard directly from Elizabeth Holmes for the first time yesterday, not in trial testimony but in a 2013 recording made by a potential investor.

From that article (thanks, Bullitt): “…jurors heard the young entrepreneur in her own voice…”

To which I respond: which one?

:joy: :joy:

How did it get to the point they were testing on patients? Medical device R&D & manufacturing are some of the most highly regulated companies out there and the FDA would have shut it all down in the first hour of the first audit

Well, that’s part of the issue. Theranos was giving demonstrations with the magic box, but despite what they were saying publicly, they weren’t actually performing tests with it. All of the actual (non-demonstration) tests were being carried out back at their lab, using the same equipment everyone else in the industry uses.* They were perpetually “a few months away” from final FDA approval, or they just kind of glossed over the whole bit where the magic box didn’t actually have FDA approval and they were actually performing all the tests the same way everyone else does, with couriers and a core lab.

*And, as discussed upthread, to me by far the worst part of the whole scam is that they weren’t even performing those tests correctly. They weren’t collecting enough blood, and they were running too many tests on too-small samples, and getting garbage results. Unfortunately, it’s not that hard to put on a show for CLIAA and CAP inspectors and do that day’s tests correctly, and then go right back to all your old bad habits the other 364 days of the year. CLIAA and CAP inspections are actually pretty effective at catching incompetence and corner cutting and poor practices. But they’re not much if any use in catching deliberate fraud.

I can’t remember exactly what it’s called, but Theranos received some sort of waiver from full FDA testing under a program meant to encourage small businessese

She took the stand:

Did she talk in the affected low pitch voice?

That’s for investors and underlings. It doesn’t harmonize with the current victim narrative.

A friend of a friend is a transwoman. I’ll call her “Sue”. She has been frustrated by how women are ignored. One time, on a large conference call, she made a suggestion that she thought would really help the situation and the conversation continued as if she hasn’t said anything. She was so frustrated that she interrupted in her “male” voice and said, “i think Sue had a good suggestion”. And suddenly, three other men agreed, and her suggestion was rapidly adopted and the conversation moved forward.

My guess is that the lower, less feminine, voice was very effective. Because sexism. And there’s a lot I hold against Holmes, but her low voice is not on the list.

NY Times is covering the trial in pretty good detail. Here are some quotes from their coverage yesterday:

In just under two hours of testimony, Ms. Holmes pushed back against accusations that she had lied about Theranos’s work with drug companies. She also pointed the blame at the scientists and doctors who had worked at her start-up, saying she believed what they had told her about Theranos’s technology.

And throughout it all, Ms. Holmes’s defense bolstered the idea it has been pushing since the start of the trial: She may have made mistakes, but failure is not a crime.

For her lawyers, the idea on Monday was to show the kernel of truth that may have existed in some of the most blatant misrepresentations that prosecutors attributed to her.

Ms. Holmes also tried to shift the blame, noting that she learned about Theranos’s technology from the scientists and doctors who worked in the company’s lab. She testified that she believed them when they said the technology worked. The implication: Ms. Holmes could not have intended to deceive investors if she believed the technology was real.

I don’t dispute any of that. I was just curious.

If she took a crash course in ventriloquism, she could say in court in her deep voice, once she’s left the stand, “I believe Ms. Holmes is completely innocent and should be acquitted without delay.”

The latest:

From the AP:

I think essentially ignoring the abuse testimony during cross examination by the prosecutor was the right approach. There’s nothing to be gained by trying to argue against it.

The point for me is that it doesn’t sound like a real person. It’s not like she’s just speaking in her lower register more often. Nor does she sound like a man. She just sounds like someone doing a voice. And I continue to argue it goes into showing that she was playing a phony character. It’s not 100% indicative of such, but it’s a red flag when you hear someone talk with an affected voice who tries to sell you something.

If it was just the normal advice to speak in a lower tone, then you’d hear other powerful women who sound like her. But you don’t.

I don’t think that’s what it is. My best guess is that, by adopting a goofy voice, it makes any other discomfort feel like it must be because of her voice. Or perhaps it weeded out those who would not be easy marks. Either way, I think it’s more than just her speaking low to sound more authoritative. It’s part of the con.

I agree. Is she using the voice during trial testimony.

In point of fact, Margaret Thatcher was famously advised to use a lower tone of voice in the 1970s, which she did, and then lead her Conservative Party to victory in 1979. Just do some casual Googling - you’ll find scads of articles about or advising women to use lower tones of voice in business and politics. (I’m also a bit curious how you know that any “other powerful women” don’t affect lower tones in their public speaking voices - how many have you heard in private, in a situation where they wouldn’t feel the need to affect a lower tone?).

Since we have some recordings of both Elizabeth Holmes’ natural voice and her affected public speaking voice, we know there’s a pretty big difference. And, given how low her public speaking voice is, the difference is almost certainly more extreme than most public women affect. But to me, it’s just a question of degree, and someone is going to be the one that affects the most extreme distortion of their natural speaking voice. I don’t think there’s anything the least bit deceptive about it (unless you think styled hair and makeup and careful selection of wardrobe are deceptive).

And I personally don’t hear any of the unnaturalness that others seem to hear in her public speaking voice. It’s unusually deep for a woman, but beyond that, at worst, I hear someone affecting a deeper, more authoritative tone, not something weird.

I continue to be puzzled by this fixation on Elizabeth Holmes’ public speaking voice. As I’ve mentioned before in this thread, for both women and men, affecting a lower tone in public speaking is literally Public Speaking 101. As I’ve also mentioned, I myself almost unconsciously affect a lower tone when I engage in public speaking, and I’m a man, with a fairly low pitch to begin with. For a woman trying to pitch to (mostly male) investors and market her company to (mostly male) business executives and impress (mostly male) journalists, her affected voice doesn’t seem the least bit odd or “phony” to me.