‘Pharma Bro’ Fraudster Martin Shkreli Freed from Prison
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Convicted pharmaceutical fraudster Martin Shkreli, known publicly as “Pharma Bro,” was released from prison on Wednesday, and will spend the rest of his sentence in a halfway house.
Shkreli had been serving a seven-year sentence at the Federal Correctional Complex in Allentown, Pa., after being convicted on charges of securities fraud in 2017. He was found to have run a perpetual “Ponzi scheme” at MSMB Capital Management and Retrophin — two of his many companies, which were created to pay of investors from previously defrauded companies. The trial was widely publicized given Shkreli’s public notoriety as an entrepreneur, with many jurors being rejected due to their public distaste for him.
Shkreli gained a reputation for arrogance, smugness, and condescension after a long series of controversial business decisions and public statements. These included several failed hostile-takeover attempts of pharmaceutical companies AMAG and Navidea, publicly casting doubt about the effectiveness of life-saving experimental drugs (whose stocks he’d then short-sell) and forcing employees at his companies to use social media to influence stock prices.
Most controversial, however, were Shkreli’s decisions to acquire the rights to important prescription drugs and dramatically raise their prices for patients. At the drugmaker Retrophin (which later fired him as CEO), Shkreli raised the price of tiopronin — a drug used to treat cystinuria, a rare kidney disease — by 20 times its market value (from $1.50 to $30.00 per pill). Later, he founded Turing Pharmaceuticals along the same business model, and in 2015 acquired Daraprim — a unique drug used to treat patients with AIDS and parasitic diseases. He then removed Daraprim from circulation in pharmacies nationwide and raised its price from $13.50 to $750 overnight, an increase of over 5,500 percent.
The decision attracted national publicity and was widely criticized — including by over 200 medical associations, non-profits, and lawmakers, as well as all three then-standing presidential candidates: Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. At the time, Shkreli defended his actions, claiming that insurance co-pays for the drug had not changed, saying “If there was a company that was selling an Aston Martin at the price of a bicycle, and we charge Toyota prices, I don’t think that that should be a crime.”
He attracted more controversy in in February 2016, when he was subpoenaed to testify before the House Committee on Oversight by then-congressman Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) about the Daraprim price increases. At the hearing, Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in response to every question posed by the committee — except for a question from then-congressmen Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) to pronounce his last name.
However, when Gowdy asked about his purchase of “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin” — a rare album by the Wu Tang Clan for which Shkreli paid $2 million — he pled the Fifth Amendment again and was dismissed from the hearing, clip of which went viral on social media. The album was later seized by the U.S. Government and auctioned off to account for Shkreli’s $7.4 million asset forfeiture upon his conviction.
He will be discharged in September of 2022. Though Shkreli is banned from Twitter, he announced his release through friendly accounts on the platform.