Martin Shkreli, the reviled “Pharma Bro” who raised the price of an HIV drug from $13.50 to $750 a pill overnight, is an avowed Trump supporter. The disgraced pharmaceutical CEO might have something fundamentally in common with the president: A tendency to say the inadvisable boast about himself that might put him in legal jeopardy.
Shkreli is on trial for securities fraud, which began today in Manhattan. Prosecutors accuse him of using $11 million in stock from Retrophin, a company he founded and was fired from in 2014, to pay off investors who lost money. Robert Capers, then the U.S. Attorney in Brooklyn, said Shkreli had conducted “a Ponzi scheme.”
Shkreli has pleaded not guilty. But experts say he has not helped his case by giving an interview to the FBI, without a lawyer, to brag about his accomplishments. According to Bloomberg, he requested a meeting in 2015 and told agents that he had made a fortune in pharmaceuticals, built a “billion dollar company” “single-handedly,” was “smart and resourceful” and the “best asset” the company had.
Shkreli does not lack for confidence. Testifying before a Congressional committee about drug prices, he called his questioners “imbeciles” on Twitter. He was banned from Twitter for harassing a female journalist. He has compared himself to O.J. Simpson, and says he’ll be found not guilty because he’s famous.
The Ponzi trial is unrelated to his machinations at his later company Turing Pharmaceuticals, where he jacked up the price for a decades-old drug used by HIV patients by 5,000%.
Because of his loose lips, the federal government may be able to use Shkreli’s words against him in court. Lawyers usually tell their clients to keep their mouths shut and avoid speaking to the FBI on their own.
“Having been on both sides, there’s ordinarily no benefit to a person in this situation to speak with the government without counsel,” said Scott Klugman, a former federal prosecutor in Brooklyn. “A potential target is often not aware of the risks.”
Shkreli may be more than a Trump supporter — perhaps a psychic twin. Bloomberg reported that Retrophin fired Shkreli in part because he shared too much information on the internet. The board of directors had asked him to stop tweeting.