News & Politics

'Pharma Bro' Martin Shkreli Pleads the Fifth, Smirks His Way Through Hearing

Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on his former company's decision to raise the price of a lifesaving medicine. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

“Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli frustrated the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Thursday by refusing to answer questions about his former company. Shkreli, the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, was asked by members of Congress to defend his decision to hike the price of a life-saving drug from $13.50 to $750,  but instead of answering, he invoked his Fifth Amendment privilege for every question they threw at him.

Via USA Today:

“Drug company executives are lining their pockets at the expense of some of the most vulnerable families in our nation,” U.S. Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said. “It’s not funny, Mr. Shkreli. People are dying and they’re getting sicker and sicker.”

The boyish-faced Shkreli sat quietly at the witness table, clasping his hands tightly and slowly rubbing his fingers together as he was lectured. He smirked several times and appeared on the verge of laughter at one point when Cummings was speaking.

As the questions continued, the pharma bad boy repeated over and over his prepared statement that he would not testify on the advice of his counsel.

When Rep. Trey Gowdy (SC-R) encouraged him to talk because not every question is incriminating,  Shkreli altered his statement ever-so-slightly: “I intend to follow the advice of my counsel, and not yours.”

By the time the hearing ended, the polite facade had pretty much cracked, judging by this tweet to his 53,500 followers:

 

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmmKj7-O3Kk]

Via NPR:

Shkreli, 32, gained notoriety last year after the company he founded, Turing Pharmaceuticals, purchased a lifesaving drug called Daraprim, which is used to treat HIV patients and others with suppressed immune systems, and immediately raised the price by 5,000 percent. To say the move made Shkreli unpopular is a huge understatement: News outlets dubbed him the most hated man in America.

In December, FBI agents showed up at his Manhattan apartment to arrest the baby-faced executive on unrelated securities charges. The Brooklyn-born Shkreli was accused of cheating investors in a pair of hedge funds he operated by lying to them about the value of assets he managed. He was released on $5 million bail.

Most people, faced with daunting legal problems, disappear quietly to await the resolution of their cases. Not Shkreli.

In the weeks to come, he gave several media interviews, tweeted voluminously and spent hours on a live stream feed of his life. The feed shows him ambling around his apartment in sweatpants and stubble, playing video games, idly strumming a guitar and rating girls on OKCupid.

While Shkreli usually stopped short of talking about the fraud charges against him, he made clear he sees himself as the deeply misunderstood victim of overzealous prosecutors and media.

Last October, the “Pharma Bro” became a “Bernie Bro” when he endorsed Bernie Sanders’ bid for the White House and donated $2,700 to his campaign. When Sanders rejected the donation and said he would give the money to a health clinic, Shkreli tweeted that he was so angry at Sanders he “could punch a wall.”