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Holmes Jury Takes Christmas Off Without Verdict in Theranos Case

Dec. 24, 2021, 12:01 AM

Jurors in the Elizabeth Holmes fraud trial ended their third full day of deliberations without a verdict, after listening for more than 30 minutes to an audio recording of the Theranos Inc. founder talking up the company to investors eight years ago.

The jurors asked Thursday to hear a replay of a recording of a 2013 conference call that they first heard in October when a Texas investor testified that Holmes gave him confidence to boost his company’s stake in the blood-testing startup from $2 million to $7 million. The call featured the young entrepreneur touting her company’s extraordinary leaps of technological innovation, a rocketing share price, and a closing window of investment opportunity.

Read More: Texan’s ‘Jackpot’ Recording of Elizabeth Holmes Played for Jury

The jury in federal court in San Jose, California, sat through three months of trial testimony. Jurors are set to resume deliberating on Monday.

When Bryan Tolbert, an executive of Dallas-based Hall Group, testified two months ago that he had preserved the recording, it was the first time the jury heard Holmes in her own voice -- more than a month before she began testifying in her defense.

On the conference call, Holmes hit on points that prosecutors have emphasized as gross distortions: the ability of Theranos machines to perform a wide range of blood tests, as well as the company’s partnerships with the U.S. military and pharmaceutical companies.

“The speed with which we expand is critical in the context of capturing the market opportunity that we have created and we are putting a lot of resources into establishing a national footprint as fast as we can,” Holmes said on the call. “But that starts with excellence in each local market and capturing market share in each local market, which is where we are focused now.”

The 37-year-old entrepreneur was charged with fraud and conspiracy in 2018, the same year that her blood-testing startup collapsed after previously reaching a valuation of $9 billion. Holmes is facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted.

Anne Kopf-Sill, a retired biotechnology executive who attended the trial, singled out Tolbert’s testimony about how upbeat Holmes was on the conference call as one of the most compelling pieces of the government’s case. She found Tolbert to be an especially credible witness because he admitted he didn’t know anything about biotechnology.

“If you just get lied to, how is any investor supposed to navigate that?” she said. “It’s too hard.”

(Updates with excerpt from recording of Holmes.)

To contact the reporter on this story:
Joel Rosenblatt in San Francisco at jrosenblatt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Katia Porzecanski at kporzecansk1@bloomberg.net

Peter Blumberg, Joe Schneider

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.