Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes settles with SEC: Anatomy of the fraud

By Business LeadersFOXBusiness

Holmes caused far more financial harm than Shkreli: Judge Napolitano

Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano breaks down the difference in charges between Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes and “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli.

Theranos, company founder Elizabeth Holmes and former president Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani have agreed to a settlement with the SEC, which alleges that they committed a “massive fraud” in lying about one of the company’s key products.

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Holmes and Balwani are charged with raising more than $700 million from investors through a fraudulent scheme that took place over the course of years. The SEC accuses them of making misleading statements during investor presentations and product demonstrations about a machine that can test and process small samples of blood.

In addition to losing control of her company, Holmes will be forced to return to investors 18.9 million shares, which the SEC says were obtained through fraud, and pay a $500,000 penalty. Once one of Silicon Valley’s most promising startups, Theranos descended into chaos over 15 years. Here’s an inside look at what happened:


Theranos is founded in 2003 as a privately held healthcare technology company in Silicon Valley by Holmes. Her mission is  to develop a technology that will allow comprehensive blood testing and analysis with a small amount of blood obtained from a prick of a finger.


Holmes is profiled by Inc. in a 30 under 30 feature.


Theranos and Walgreens announce a “long-term partnership to bring Theranos’ new lab testing service to Walgreens stores nationwide.”

Theranos Wellness Centers open at Walgreens locations. The number of Wellness Centers eventually climbs to 42.


Theranos claims that its blood analyzer was used by the Defense Department on the battlefield in Afghanistan and generated $100 million in revenue for the company that year. The SEC found in 2018 that the government did not use Theranos’ technology and that revenue in 2014 barely surpassed $100,000.


From 2003 through 2015, Theranos raises nearly $900 million from investors, according to The Wall Street Journal, which valued the company at more than $9 billion.

The Journal reports that Theranos' technology is not working as expected and the company is using third-party machines to test its blood samples. It also says health regulators are investigating complaints about the company’s lab and research practices, brought by two former employees.

A deal with grocer Safeway falls by the wayside.


May: Balwani resigns.

June: Walgreens pulls out of its partnership with Theranos.

July: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) bans Holmes from operating a lab for at least two years. The order is issued after an inspection reveals safety hazards at one of its California labs.

October: Theranos says it will shut down its labs and wellness centers in a shift away from operating clinics to focus on selling to providers.

November: Walgreens sues Theranos for $140 million, alleging breach of contract. The pharmaceutical giant claims it was misled by Theranos about the capabilities of its blood-testing technology at the time the deal was struck.

The company has less than $200 million at the end of 2016, according to a report by The Journal, which is less than 25% of the amount of cash it had initially raised from investors. The company acknowledges that it didn’t generate any revenue in 2015 or 2016.


Theranos, Holmes and Balwani charged with fraud by the SEC.

Theranos and Holmes agree to settle the charges, and Holmes is stripped of control of the company and is barred from serving as an officer or director at any public company for the next decade, according to the SEC. She will be forced to return to investors 18.9 million shares, which the SEC says were obtained through fraud, and pay a $500,000 penalty.