Lawyer for 'pharma bro' Shkreli paints
ex-CEO as misunderstood genius
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[June 29, 2017]
By Brendan Pierson
(Reuters) - Martin Shkreli's lawyer did not
run from his client's troubled public image, describing him as a
misunderstood genius, as he began his defense in the former drug company
executive's securities fraud trial on Wednesday.
"You may not like Martin Shkreli," Benjamin Brafman said in his opening
argument in Brooklyn federal court, "and you may have reasons to hate
Martin Shkreli, but that is not a basis on which to convict."
Shkreli's reputation stems largely from his decision to raise the price
of anti-parisitic drug Daraprim to $750 a pill, from $13.50 when he was
chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals in 2015. That move sparked
outrage among patients and U.S. lawmakers.
But Brafman reminded jurors that Shkreli is "not on trial for all of the
other stuff that made him a household name."
Instead, Shkreli, 34, is facing charges over to his tenure as an
executive at drug company Retrophin Inc and hedge fund MSMB Capital
Management between 2009 and 2012.
Before Brafman's opening, Assistant U.S. Attorney Karthik Srinivasan
told jurors that Shkreli lied about MSMB's finances to lure investors,
concealed devastating losses and repaid them with cash and stock stolen
from Retrophin, which he founded in 2011.
"They got their money back only because the defendant stole from a
public company, and it eventually turned out to be successful,"
Shkreli was ousted as Retrophin's CEO in 2014.
Brafman, in his opening statement, conceded that Shkreli's statements to
investors were not always "100 percent accurate."
But he said Shkreli's wealthy investors trusted Shkreli despite knowing
about his erratic personality, and were rewarded in the end, reaping
millions of dollars in returns.
[to top of second column]
Martin Shkreli, former chief executive officer of Turing
Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, departs after a
hearing at U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 26,
2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
"Martin Shkreli didnít lie to them," Brafman said. "They were
betting on Martin Shkreliís genius."
Brafman described Shkreli as a socially awkward "nerd" exploited by
people around him, a sharp contrast with the villainous "pharma bro"
persona depicted throughout media.
The lawyer told jurors that Retrophin board members bullied Shkreli,
suggesting he was autistic, questioning his sexuality and eventually
forced him out because they were embarrassed by him.
"Martin Shkreli came to work in t-shirts and sneakers and wore a
stethoscope and bunny slippers and they couldn't handle it," Brafman
"You want to call him names, you can call him names," he said. "Just
donít call him guilty, because heís not guilty."
Retrophin spokesman Chris Cline said the company will "let the facts
speak for themselves in court."
(This version of the story corrects attribution of Retrophin
statement to Chris Cline, from Emma Schultz in final paragraph)
(Reporting By Brendan Pierson in New York; Editing by Bill Trott)
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