Former Theranos chief operating officer Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who promised to revolutionize blood testing, was convicted of fraud Thursday, July 7, six months after a similar conviction for his former partner Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of the failed California start-up.
He pleaded not guilty to all counts, but the San Jose court jury found him guilty on all counts of fraud against the company’s investors and patients, court documents show. consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP). Mr. Balwani, like the former leader, faces several decades in prison. He will be sentenced on November 15. Until then he remains free on bail, but the judge has increased the amount of the latter to 750,000 dollars.
Theranos’ promises to make diagnostic tools faster and cheaper than traditional labs had sparked enthusiasm from many businessmen and high-level figures, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the former defense minister James Mattis or media magnate Rupert Murdoch. But the start-up, founded in 2003, fell apart after the 2015 scandal, when the Wall Street Journal revealed that the technology never worked as expected.
« Fake it till you make it »
Elizabeth Holmes, who started her business at just 19, was found guilty of defrauding investors but acquitted of some charges on January 3, after more than three months of trial. Her sentence is due September 26, but she has appealed.
Mr. Balwani’s trial opened on March 22, after several postponements due to Covid. The prosecution highlighted the responsibility and experience of the director of operations who supported the young boss and supported her in her decisions.
The two former leaders and ex-lovers were initially to be tried together, before their cases were separated. During her trial, Elizabeth Holmes assured jurors that her romantic relationship with “Sunny” Balwani had been marred by forced sex and that he was responsible for the technical problems of her business.
With her charismatic personality and polished storytelling, she embodied one of Silicon Valley’s mantras: “fake it till you make it.” His lawyers asserted his good faith in court. “Failure is not a crime, persevering and failing is not a crime,” said Lance Wade, for example. But according to the prosecutor, the ex-entrepreneur deliberately deceived her partners to raise funds, more than 700 million dollars in all.