Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli refused to answer any questions during a congressional hearing on Thursday, drawing the ire of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee lawmakers.
Shkreli was arrested in December 2015 on securities fraud charges.
Shkreli, 32, is the founder and former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG. He has been widely criticized for raising the price of the lifesaving drug Daraprim more than 5,000 percent.
“Shkreli essentially ran his company like a Ponzi scheme where he used each subsequent company to pay off defrauded investors from the prior company,” Brooklyn U.S. Attorney Robert Capers said at a press conference in December.
According to several sources, his pending criminal charges are not directly related to the drug price hike.
“On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination, and decline to answer that question,” he told Oversight Committee members several times at the “Developments in the Prescription Drug Market” hearing.
Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), a former prosecutor, asked Shkreli if he was pronouncing his name correctly. He replied, “Yes.” Gowdy then tried to get Shkreli to answer a question about drug pricing.
“I intend to follow the advice of counsel, not yours,” Shkreli, the co-founder and former CEO of the biotechnology firm Retrophin LLC, told Gowdy.
Gowdy told Shkreli he would not incriminate himself by answering the question, but he still declined.
Gowdy decided to ask Shkreli about the Wu-Tang Clan album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin,” that he purchased for $2 million late last year. The rap group decided to sell only one copy of the album to the highest bidder. Shkreli recently said he has not listened to the full album yet and some Wu-Tang fans have criticized him for not posting the tracks online.
“We can even talk about the purchase of Wu-Tang Clan – is that the name of the album? The name of the group?” asked Gowdy.
Shkreli still refused to answer.
His attorney, Ben Brafman, got out of his chair at one point and asked if he could speak. Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) shot back. “No, you are not recognized and you will be seated.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the committee, pleaded with Shkreli to use his time in the spotlight to become a “tremendous force for good” and try to influence his former company to lower the price of Daraprim and other drugs.
“Drug company executives are lining their pockets at the expense of some of the most vulnerable families in our nation,” Cummings said while Shkreli smiled.
“You could go down in history as the poster boy for greedy pharmaceutical executives, or you could change the system,” he added.
Chaffetz eventually dismissed Shkreli from the hearing.
“Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government,” Shkreli said on his Twitter account after the hearing.