Shkreli, CEO Reviled for Drug Price Gouging, Arrested on Securities Fraud Charges
Martin Shkreli, the boyish drug company entrepreneur, who rocketed to infamy byjacking up the price of a life-saving pill from $13.50 to $750, was arrested by federal agents at his Manhattan home early Thursday morning on securities fraud related to a firm he founded.
Shkreli, 32, ignited a firestorm over drug prices in September and became a symbol of defiant greed. The federal case against him has nothing to do with pharmaceutical costs, however. Prosecutors in Brooklyn charged him with illegally taking stock from Retrophin Inc., a biotechnology firm he started in 2011, and using it to pay off debts from unrelated business dealings. He was later ousted from the company, where he’d been chief executive officer, and sued by its board.
In the case that closely tracks that suit, federal prosecutors accused Shkreli of engaging in a complicated shell game after his defunct hedge fund, MSMB Capital Management, lost millions. He is alleged to have made secret payoffs and set up sham consulting arrangements. A New York lawyer, Evan Greebel, was also arrested early Thursday. He's accused of conspiring with Shkreli in part of the scheme.
Retrophin replaced Shkreli as CEO “because of serious concerns about his conduct,” the company said in a statement. The company, which hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing, has “fully cooperated with the government investigations into Mr. Shkreli.”
Shkreli’s lawyer declined to comment. Greebel, who worked at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and served as lead outside counsel to Retrophin from 2012 to 2014, helped Shkreli in several schemes, prosecutors said. A spokeswoman for Katten Muchin declined to comment; a spokeswoman for Kaye Scholer, where Greebel now works, said he joined the firm after the alleged activities occurred.
Authorities outlined years of investment losses and lies Shkreli allegedly told his investors almost from the moment he began managing money. By age 26, they said, he got nine investors to place $3 million with him, began losing their money and covering it up. Within a year, his fund's account was down to $331.
Shkreli attracted another $2.35 million investment in 2010 and lost about half of that in two months, the authorities said. As the hole grew, he covered it up with scheme after scheme, telling investors that his returns were as high as 35.8 percent when he was down 18 percent. He used client money to pay for his clothing, food and medical expenses and lied to the broker handling his fund's accounts, authorities said.
His name entered public consciousness after heraised the pricemore than 55-fold for Daraprim. It is the preferred treatment for a parasitic condition known as toxoplasmosis, which can be deadly for unborn babies and patients with compromised immune systems including those with HIV or cancer. His company, Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, bought the drug, moved it to a closed distribution system and instantly drove the price into the stratosphere.Shkreli’s extraordinary history—and current hold on the public imagination—makes the case more noteworthy than most involving securities fraud. The son of immigrants from Albania and Croatia who worked as janitors and raised him deep in working-class Brooklyn, Shkreli both epitomizes the American dream and sullies it. As a youth, he showed exceptional promise and independence and, after dropping out of an elite Manhattan high school, began his conquest of Wall Street before he was 20.
The moves drew shocked rebukes from Congress, public-interest groups, doctors and presidential candidates, and cast an unwelcome spotlight on the rising prices of older drugs. Donald Trump called Shkreli a “spoiled brat,” and the BBC dubbed him the “most hated man in America.” Bernie Sanders, a Democratic presidential candidate, rejected a $2,700 campaign donation from him, directing it to an HIV clinic. A spokesman said in October that the campaign would not keep money “from this poster boy for drug company greed.”