Who Is Elizabeth Holmes and Why Is She on Trial?

Elizabeth Holmes

American businesswoman Elizabeth Holmes is under fire for lying, cheating and defrauding investors who backed Theranos, her health technology company.

Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes’s journey shows that not all Ivy League-dropout stories are those of success. At 19, Holmes dropped out of Stanford to start Theranos, a health-tech company that set out to revolutionize healthcare by detecting diseases with a single drop of blood. The idea was innovative and promising, so much so that Vice President Joe Biden called it “the future of laboratory science”. Seeing its potential, investors poured over US$400 million into the business.

However, it was later found that the company’s “breakthrough” technology was anything but. A 2015 Wall Street Journal report exposed Theranos, revealing that the company’s technology did not work. What’s more? Holmes knew it, though she claimed that she didn’t. Her case points to the importance of researching your idea well, accepting your limitations, and knowing when it’s time to call it quits, especially as a start-up.

The allegations against Holmes

In 2018, the company dissolved and, soon after, Holmes and Former President of Theranos Ramesh Balwani—also her ex-boyfriend—were charged for defrauding investors. She has been charged with two counts of conspiracy and ten counts of wire fraud. She was also accused of lying to investors about her product and hiding the fact that her technologies didn’t work. Holmes has pleaded innocent on all counts.

The trial begins

The trial started on Wednesday, September 8, 2021. Dozens of cameras and media personnel along with women dressed like Holmes in support of her (claiming to be her “fans”) gathered outside the courthouse. Supported by her mother and partner Billy Evans, she sat, facing 12 jurors—seven men and five women—who were chosen after a rigorous three-day process.

The Lead Prosecutor Rober Leach declared in an opening statement, “This is a case about fraud, about lying and cheating to get money.” According to him, as Holmes and Balwani ran out of money and time, they decided to mislead investors and people. Holmes’s Attorney Lance Wade, however, painted the picture of a young, ambitious Silicon Valley founder who simply tried and failed, as many have. He affirmed, “Elizabeth Holmes did not go to work every day intending to lie, cheat and steal. The government would have you believe her company, her entire life, is a fraud. That is wrong. That is not true.”

Holmes: just another Silicon Valley failure?

Wade went on to add that Holmes “worked herself to the bone” for 15 years, pouring her “heart and her soul” into Theranos. Despite her efforts, Theranos failed. He said, “Ms. Holmes walked away with nothing. But failure is not a crime. Trying your hardest and coming up short is not a crime.” Wade argued that the jurors must factor in Holmes’s age, mentioning that she was a young CEO who “naively underestimated” business obstacles. On Holmes defrauding investors, he said that investors are already aware of the risks involved in investing in Silicon Valley companies.

A step back for women in science and technology

The prosecutor has lined up many witnesses—investors, media moguls, patients who were wrongly diagnosed by Theranos and more—to emphasize the impact of her negligence. Many feel that the CEO’s dereliction is a step back for women in science. Still, according to legal experts, that’s exactly what might work in her favor. They believe that Holmes might be at an advantage as she needs to convince only one juror that she is being treated differently because she is a woman in science. If she will succeed in doing so, no one knows. 

The trial will last for 13 weeks, with Holmes expected to defend herself and Balwani’s trial to begin soon.

Header Image by Flickr

SHARE THIS STORY

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on email

RELATED POSTS

Top 3 Cheapest Tesla Alternatives to Consider Buying

Top 3 Cheapest Tesla Alternatives to Consider Buying

Those who care about the environment have progressively shifted to electric cars. In December 2022, electric car sales reached 11% of the car market worldwide. These cars not only have significantly fewer carbon emissions but are also cheaper to maintain. Some countries, such as New Zealand, the U.K.

Workplace Bullies: How Do You Deal With Them

Workplace Bullies: How Do You Deal With Them

According to the 2021 U.S. Workplace Bullying survey, 30% of employees have direct experience being bullied at work. The typical office bully constantly puts you down, ignores your opinions and blames you for things you had nothing to do with. Some bullies are better at concealing their behaviors than others, and some might even gaslight you into thinking that you are making a big deal out of nothing. 

What Should Employees Do in a Crisis

What Should Employees Do in a Crisis?

At the start of January 2023, a drunk man in an Air India flight’s business class urinated over a 72-year-old woman sitting beside him. The man, Shankar Mishra, was the Vice President of the financial services company Wells Fargo (he was fired following the incident). In itself, the incident is disgusting.

Top 5 AI Companies in the World

Top 5 AI Companies in the World

Technological developments are driven by the human need to make life easier and complete tasks faster and more efficiently. The drastic growth of technology in recent years has paved the way for artificial intelligence (AI) to become an integral part of almost every industry—from education and lifestyle to music and sports. It is everywhere. And by the looks of it, it is here to stay.

3 High Demand Metaverse Jobs in Future That Your Kids Should Look into

3 High Demand Metaverse Jobs in Future That Your Kids Should Look into

It’s no wonder why Jumpstart Media named “metaverse” one of the top emerging trends and technologies to look forward to in 2023. With an expected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 39.4% from 2022 to 2030, Grand View Research forecasts that the global metaverse market is set to expand exponentially. From fashion shows, gaming, luxury products, sports and travel to art, many industries are tapping into the metaverse’s potential.

4 Most Anticipated Tech IPOs of 2023

4 Most Anticipated Tech IPOs of 2023

The technology industry has been a driving force in shaping the global economy for decades and the initial public offerings (IPOs) of technology companies are often highly-anticipated events. In 2022, the tech IPO market saw a slowdown compared to the previous year, 2021.