A Real-Life Thriller About the Fall of Theranos

I watched a movie called ‘The Big Short.’ It was about the 2008’s global recession and it blew my mind. I paused the movie now and then to take notes and told it to my friends. It aroused my interest to learn about corporate frauds. From here on, I have heard and read about many frauds but didn’t dig into details.

Fast forward to this day, I was on amazon, thinking about topics to read on when this popped in my mind. So, I picked 2 books on corporate frauds. They were – Bad Blood by John Carreyrou and Faster, Higher, Farther: The Inside Story of the Volkswagen Scandal by Jack Ewing.

I would be writing about Bad Blood.

Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos. It’s a revolutionary business that claimed it could give a complete picture of your health using a small amount of your blood.

Her vision was to place the devices in a patient’s home. They could test blood as often as required. The doctor received the results of the test via a central server. This allowed the doctor to adjust the medicines.

Quite impressive I must say. Don’t you think?

I was quite impressed by Elizabeth too. I liked her work ethic and ambition. She was extremely driven and relentless that she slept 4 hours a night and injected herself with caffeine.

She’s crazy but that’s what entrepreneurs are, aren’t they? No, not in her case…. No!! There was one problem. The device never worked. It hardly gave an accurate result.

She crossed a line and went way far from that line. John Carreyrou, the author, pulled the trigger in this scandal. Elizabeth Holmes is now facing probable jail time.

Bad Blood is a real-life thriller about how it all started and ended – the secrets, lies, and defrauding investors and regulators.  It’s based on hundreds of interviews with more than 150 people, including more than sixty former employees. Real emails, deposition testimony was used. The narrative is easy to understand with some medical and law jargon.

This fraud teaches an important lesson about ethics.  Likewise, it teaches us: some businesses need members with high-end qualifications and experience on Board.

I have read a lot about corporate frauds. The key difference in this fraud was: it jeopardized the health of the patients.

Theranos corporate culture was hostile. A culture I don’t see myself surviving a month.

The leadership was haunt, demeaning and lead with fear and intimidation. They ignored sound advice and concerns from the employees.

Some employees were fired because they weren’t a team player and didn’t believe in the company’s vision (They were fired because they raised concerns about the accuracy of the devices), while some employees left because they wouldn’t compromise their ethics because of her. (because Elizabeth went commercial with the inaccurate devices)

It was an absolute scary environment that would make me sick. The company installed a security system that made everyone feel under surveillance.  You couldn’t insert a pen drive without IT guys knowing about it.

There a lot of scenes I couldn’t believe it. They left me in complete shock. The details blew me out of the water.

Some instances where I was in complete shock and scared are:

  • The threats, tactics, and intimidation Theranos lawyers went to keep key people who came forward from testifying.
  • The case of Maureen Glunz.

This is an extract from the book. “Lab reports from Theranos had shown abnormally elevated results for calcium, protein, glucose, and three liver enzymes. Since Maureen Glunz complained ringing in her ear (later determined to be caused because of lack of sleep) Dr. Sundane had worried she might be on the cusp of a stroke and sent her straight to the hospital. She spent 4 hours in the emergency room while doctors ran tests, including a CT scan. She got discharged after new blood test reports came back to normal. As a precaution, she underwent two MRIs during the ensuing week. She was self-insured and had a health plan with a high deductible. The ER vision and subsequent MRIs had cost three thousand dollars – a sum she had to pay out of her pocket. It was solid proof that the machine didn’t work. It made a compelling case because it showed both the emotional and financial toll of a health scare bought on by an accurate result.”

It looked like they didn’t care about your health. They were here to make money, no matter what. 

There is a lot of detailed shitty shit that you won’t believe. It will shock, scare, and blow your mind like a thriller novel with one difference – this one is real. I picked this book because of my interest in this genre. You should read it too, not because it’s a gripping page-turner but you’ve got to know what happened so that you are aware.

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