Former Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani and his legal team leave the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building on July 7, 2022 in San Jose, California.
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Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani was convicted Thursday of 12 counts of fraud related to his role at Theranos.
Prosecutors alleged that Balwani, and his ex-lover Elizabeth Holmes, deceived investors and patients.
Balwani’s months-long trial was nearly a carbon copy of Holmes’ trial last year, including many of the same witnesses.
Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, the former second-in-command at the ill-fated blood-testing startup Theranos, was found guilty of 12 fraud charges on Thursday, just months after a jury convicted Elizabeth Holmes, his ex-lover and co-conspirator, of similar charges.
Throughout the months-long trial, which began March 23, prosecutors had alleged that Balwani had played a crucial role alongside Holmes in lying to investors and patients about the efficacy of Theranos’ blood-testing machines. Meanwhile, Balwani’s attorneys sought to minimize his role at Theranos, arguing that Holmes was entirely responsible for the fraud.
Theranos’ deception was first exposed in 2015, when a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that the company’s technology could only accurately run roughly a dozen blood tests, when the company claimed it could run hundreds. The company collapsed at the seams shortly afterward, instantly becoming a cautionary Silicone Valley tale. Theranos’s downfall has since become the subject of a hit documentary and TV series.
Holmes was finally tried in federal court in late 2021, and convicted in January of 2022 of four counts of fraud. She has appealed the verdict, and has also accused Balwani of emotionally and sexually abusing her, though her allegations were not discussed in Balwani’s trial. Balwani has denied the allegations.
According to media reports from the courtroom, Balwani’s months-long trial often seemed like a carbon copy of Holmes’ trial. A large number of witnesses, including former employees and investors, even testified in both trials, and neither Holmes nor Balwani testified against the other.
Holmes is set to be sentenced on September 26, while Balwani’s is scheduled for November 15.
Here are some of the most remarkable moments from Balwani’s trial:
Balwani once said he was ‘responsible for everything’
One of the most notable and damning pieces of evidence shown to the jury was a 2015 text from Balwani to Holmes.
“I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” Balwani wrote. “All have been my decisions too."
The statement flew directly in the face of Balwani’s defense at trial. His attorneys had tried to argue that Balwani was merely an investor in the company — even going so far as to present Balwani as a victim of Holmes’ ambition.
"Mr. Balwani put his heart and soul into Theranos,” Balwani’s attorney, Jeffrey Coopersmith, said during closing statements.
Coopersmith said Balwani had been one of Theranos’ largest investors, apart from Holmes herself, and had injected $15 million of his own money into the company because he had been so loyal to Holmes and devoted to the company’s success.
Holmes was particularly adept at “attracting” people such as Balwani to “the vision that she had,” Coopersmith said at trial.
Former Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and former Theranos COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
Yichuan Cao/Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
The judge warned Balwani’s lawyer, ‘Don’t threaten me’
The trial grew particularly tense in early April when US District Judge Edward Davila had to issue a stern rebuke to one of Balwani’s lawyers.
“Don’t threaten me, you’re better than that,” Davila told Coopersmith, after a dispute about whether to admit a document as evidence, according to Law360.
Coopersmith had sought to use a document as evidence, though it would use up additional time to verify that it was authentic.
“Here’s the bottom line,” Coopersmith said, according to Law360. “If this document doesn’t come in … we’ll do this the hard way … we’ll have a paralegal lined up from the US Attorney’s office about what they received from Theranos.”
Law360 reported that Coopersmith apologized to Davila several days later, to which Davila responded with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson.
“’Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day.’ So that’s what we’ll do,” Davila said.
A witness testified that Balwani and Holmes were ‘unified’ in their decisions
One of Balwani’s subordinates, former Theranos lab director Mark Pandori, took the witness stand in March and testified about Balwani’s role in the company and his behavior when confronted about Theranos’ faulty product.
“I considered Mr. Balwani and Elizabeth to be unified in all of their decision-making processes,” Pandori told jurors, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Pandori went on to explain that Balwani had overseen the Theranos lab where blood-testing took place. Pandori testified that Balwani did not take kindly when subordinates questioned the performance of Theranos’ proprietary blood-testing device, known as an Edison.
“Quality control remained a problem for the duration of my time at the company,” Pandori testified, according to KRON4. “There was never a solution to poor performance.”
Pandori added that Theranos often ran blood tests on potential investors, calling them “VIPs,” and that Balwani’s team “always applied a higher level of pressure” for the VIPs’ blood tests, processing them much more quickly than those of other patients.
“It misrepresents the true process,” Pandori testified. “It wouldn’t accurately reflect turn-around time. And it’s a spiritual problem, because you are trying to get a lab result for one human being before another human being, just because they are a potential investor.”
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