Biotech and Pharma

Martin Shkreli will not testify at his securities fraud trial, 'pharma bro' reveals

Key Points
  • Shkreli would have faced a withering cross-examination from prosecutors if he had testified.
  • Shkreli winked and blew a kiss at a female reporter on Monday.
  • An FBI agent testified about the very big gaps between what Shkreli told investors about their funds and what was actually in his bank accounts.
Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, center, exits federal court with his attorney Benjamin Brafman, right, in the Brooklyn, New York, July 21, 2017.
Peter Foley | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The biggest mouth in pharmaceuticals is keeping quiet — for once.

"Pharma bro" Martin Shkreli on Monday said he will not testify in his own defense at his securities fraud trial in Brooklyn, New York, federal court.

Shkreli's decision was not surprising, because of the risk he ran from facing a blistering cross-examination by prosecutors, who have a huge trove of questionable prior statements by Shkreli to use against him.

While Shkreli has teed off on prosecutors to reporters earlier at his trial, and continues to spout off on Facebook, he apparently has less nerve when it comes to going on the record for jurors who will decide his fate.

Judge Kiyo Matsumoto asked Shkreli if he was making the decision not to take the witness stand after consulting with his four defense lawyers and understanding he has a right to testify.

"Correct," Shkreli told the judge at the end of Monday's court session, after jurors were dismissed from the courtroom.

Prosecutors could conclude their case as early as Tuesday. It is not clear if the defense will call any witnesses.

Shkreli, 34, is accused of defrauding multiple investors in two hedge funds he ran by lying to them about the performance of those funds. Prosecutors said that as he was boasting of returns that outpaced a major financial index, he was actually steadily losing money.

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He also is accused of defrauding the drug company he founded, Retrophin, out of stock shares and cash to pay back those investors.

The charges, which Shkreli denies, are unrelated to the public outrage that ensued after he defended hiking the price of an anti-parasite drug called Daraprim more than 5,000 percent in 2015, while serving as CEO of another company, Turing Pharmaceuticals.

Earlier Monday, Shkreli winked and blew a kiss at a female journalist covering his trial.

Then he sat and listened to damning evidence that he repeatedly lied to his hedge-fund investors.

An FBI agent testified that Shkreli, again and again, told investors they had significantly more money left in those funds than financial records actually showed.

In early 2012, for example, Allergan CEO Brent Saunders was told by Shkreli that he had nearly $166,000 in Shkreli's MSMB Capital fund as of December 2011, after having originally invested $150,000, FBI Special Agent Michael Braconi testified.

Asked how much money was actually in MSMB Capital's bank and brokerage accounts in December 2011, Braconi answered: "Zero."

In the prior month, Braconi said, MSMB Capital likewise had "zero" dollars in its account. But for that same month, Shkreli was telling investors in the fund that the total value of their investments then equaled $3.07 million, Braconi said.

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Another investor, Al Geller, was told by Shkreli he alone had more than $1.4 million in another Shkreli hedge fund, MSMB Healthcare, as of June 2012, Braconi said.

But bank and brokerage records showed that MSMB Healthcare had less than $17,000 as of that month, the FBI agent said.

Braconi also detailed how Shkreli told the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2013 that his MSMB Capital fund's assets "were never more than $3 million or so."

But in meetings with prospective investors, Shkreli claimed at different times to have $30 million to $50 million in assets under management, or even more than that.

Records also show that an SEC official in 2014 asked Shkreli if there would have been enough cash to distribute to investors in MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare in September 2012, when he told investors that month he was closing both funds and offered to redeem their investments in cash.

"No," Shkreli told the SEC, according to Braconi.

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Multiple investors have testified that they asked for their money back when Shkreli told them he was shuttering the funds. But instead of paying them, within a month, as Shkreli had promised, he stonewalled their requests for months or even longer, in some cases.

Those investors also have testified they later got paid, to varying degrees, with cash and stock from Retrophin.

In 2012, Braconi testified, Shkreli had told the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that a prior hedge fund he started in 2006, Elea Capital, had "unfavorable" investment results and shuttered after less than two years, when a single trade "resulted in greater losses than the firm had in assets."

"The investors lost their entire principle," Shkreli told FINRA.

But Shkreli had boasted of his supposed stock-trading prowess to people who eventually invested in MSMB Capital and then in MSMB Healthcare, after MSMB Capital lost most of its money in a disastrous trade.

Braconi's testimony is scheduled to continue Tuesday.

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