The Elizabeth Holmes Line

Rafia Zakaria in The Baffler:

ELIZABETH HOLMES SAYS she is a battered woman. Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, a company that claimed to be able to perform complex diagnostic tests with just a pinprick of blood, is now alleging that she lied and defrauded investors and employees because she was under the control of her then partner and Theranos executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani. “Mr. Balwani is more than Elizabeth Holmes’ co-defendant,” according to the pleading Holmes’s legal team filed last year asking the U.S. District Court for Northern California to try the pair separately. It goes on to say that “for over a decade, Ms. Holmes and Mr. Balwani had an abusive intimate-partner relationship, in which Mr. Balwani exercised psychological, emotional, and [redacted] over Ms. Holmes.”  Such is the fear that Balwani invokes in Holmes, we are told, that she cannot effectively participate in her own defense if Balwani is in the courtroom. Their argument succeeded in separating the two trial proceedings. The trial of Holmes for fraud began August 31; Balwani’s trial is expected to start next year.

That is not the end of it. Holmes is also apparently planning to allege that she is not guilty because Balwani effectively made her lie by using the manipulative power he had over her. Holmes’s lies to investors, her subterfuge with employees, and her claims that Theranos had developed game-changing technology all took place, we are to believe, because of intimate-partner abuse. As one law professor writing on his blog put it, “I’ve been in this business for a long time and this is the first time I’ve heard of the mental disease or defect defense being used in a securities fraud case.”

The more common use of the defense is in criminal cases where a defendant facing criminal charges must prove that they cannot be criminally liable for an act because of a “mental disease or defect” which then prevented them from being able to “appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts.”

More here.