Martin Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was in a federal court Wednesday and is set to appear before a congressional hearing today. Perhaps owing to Shkreli’s flippant, enemy-making tongue, his lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, has encouraged his client to heed some sage advice during the legal proceedings: quit talking.
According to the New York Times, Shkreli was largely mum during his appearance in court and would likely plead the fifth before Congress. The 32-year-old former hedge fund manager has been indicted on securities fraud charges and subpoenaed by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
The securities fraud charge deals with allegations that Shkreli looted a former pharmaceutical employer, Retrophin, in order to pay back some investors. The subpoena relates to Shkreli’s alleged price gouging, particularly his decision to acquire a decades-old patent on the prescription drug Daraprim and raise its price from $13 a pill to $750.
Ever since that price gouge first brought him to national prominence, Martin Shkreli has regularly been referred to as the “pharma bro” and “the most hated man in America.” In almost every new story since and particularly through his behavior on social media, Shkreli has seemed dedicated to reconfirming those labels repeatedly.
In response to the controversy over the Daraprim price hike, Shkreli maintained any profits would go into research and development to make a new and improved version of the drug. He went so far as to call himself a “hero” in a recent interview with Vice.
However, recently leaked emails reveal what almost anybody could have guessed from the start: Shkreli’s real motivation was profit. As MarketWatch reports, Shkreli sent an email to Turing’s chairman of the board enthusiastically anticipating the acquisition of Daraprim. Shkreli apparently told the chairman, “Very good. Nice work as usual. $1 bn here we come.”
“I think it will be huge,” Shkreli said in a later email to company contacts.
“We raised the price from $1,700 per bottle to $75,000 … So 5,000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000 — almost all of it is profit and I think we will get 3 years of that or more. Should be a very handsome investment for all of us. Let’s all cross our fingers that the estimates are accurate.”
Martin Shkreli wasn’t the only person at Turing who was positively giddy over all the money sick Americans were sending their way. One employee, when forwarding a purchase order for 96 bottles of a $75,000-per-bottle drug, commented, “Another $7.2 million. Pow!”
Another email from an outside PR consultant expressed concern that the “highly organized, sensitive, and action-oriented” HIV community might cause problems for Turing’s 5,500 percent price hike.
Despite Shkreli’s public declarations that the price hike was for the greater good and that Daraprim would be made available to patients at a price they can afford, the emails paint a picture of vulture capitalism. Some healthcare professionals outside the pharmaceutical industry warned Shkreli about the negative effects of raising the price. Dr. Rima McLeod originally supported the price hike, but after reports of patients being unable to get the drug began coming in McLeod expressed concern.
“I understand I know nothing of what makes Turing solvent and able to do research and of course I value that a lot too … However, Martin [Shkreli] did say that he had to maximize profit for investors and that was why price is high. He did not say it was for research primarily that it was a high price. He called that the ‘dirty secret’ of pharma.”
Much of what Shkreli has said since becoming a public figure, either in private or on social media, has incurred wrath from the public. He taunted fans and dissed members of Wu-Tang Clan after purchasing a one-of-a-kind album by the band for $2 million. As Shkreli explained in an interview on The Breakfast Club podcast, “It’s a man thing … if you take shots at me, I’m going to come back at you. Especially publicly. That’s basic manhood bravado.”
Shkreli, who seems to relish in the public perception of him as a bad boy, has also taken shots at members of Congress. It’s the Congressional subpoena that appears to really have his new lawyer Brafman worried.
Brafman told USA Today that Shkreli’s silence was a condition of Brafman’s representation and said, “He is not making any more statements. Zero.”
Shkreli doesn’t appear to be heeding his lawyer’s recommendation outside the courtroom, however, remaining active on his infamous Twitter account and keeping his feud with the hip hop community alive.
[Photo by Susan Walsh/AP]