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Report: Martin Shkreli Faces Prison Term After Fraud Conviction

Xconomy New York — 

After days of deliberation, a New York jury Friday afternoon found Martin Shkreli guilty of securities fraud.

According to a report from CNBC, the jury in the civil case said that Shkreli is guilty on three of eight counts, two of which are securities fraud and the other conspiracy to commit securities fraud. Shkreli, according to the CNBC report, could face up to 20 years in prison upon his sentencing. Shkreli was charged with conspiracy for bilking investors in his New York-based hedge funds, MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare, and looting his own biotech firm, Retrophin (NASDAQ: RTRX), to cover investments gone wrong at MSMB.

Those actions took place from 2009 to 2014, according to the government. Shkreli left Retrophin in September 2014, and the company filed suit against him soon after. Many of those allegations lined up with the charges filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Shkreli and his lawyer, Evan Greebel, in late 2015.

By then, Shkreli was running a new company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, and had gained worldwide notoriety as the “pharma bro” for raising the price of pyrimethamine (Daraprim), an off-patent drug often used by people with HIV to ward off parasitic infections, from $13.50 to $750 a pill. Shkreli compounded the backlash by taunting his critics and showboating on social media.

Shkreli left Turing after his arrest. He also got the boot from KaloBios Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ: KBIO), a Bay Area biotech that Shkreli and allies had grabbed in a hostile takeover. Under Shkreli, KaloBios had designs to buy a drug for Chagas disease, which is endemic to Latin America, and raise its prices to levels comparable to hepatitis C drugs—that is, in the neighborhood of $80,000 a year.

At a Congressional hearing on drug pricing in early 2016, Shkreli pleaded the fifth amendment, invoking his Constitutional right not to testify. Afterwards, he insulted the committee members on Twitter.

Shkreli’s abrasive personality factored into his trial, as well. After calling the prosecution “junior varsity” in comments to reporters, and taking to Twitter under an alias (he had been permanently banned under his own name for harassing a reporter), the federal judge presiding over the case issued a gag order on Shkreli.

Before Shkreli, Gilead Sciences (NASDAQ: GILD) and its hepatitis C drugs were the focal point for industry critics, but his notoriety seemed to galvanize public opinion against high drug prices. Shkreli’s Turing and other pharma price-gougers, such as Valeant Pharmaceuticals (NYSE: VRX) and Mylan (NASDAQ: MYL), maker of the Epi-Pen anti-allergy injection, took turns in the shame spotlight. When President-elect Trump said in January that drug companies were getting away with murder, the die seemed cast. Washington was prepared to take on the thorny problem of drug pricing, the industry’s lobbying muscle be damned.

It hasn’t happened. A draft of a presidential executive order on drug pricing that has circulated this summer seems to benefit drug companies, not rein them in.

There is no word yet when a final order is due, or if one is even coming. But Eli Lilly (NYSE: LLY) CEO David Ricks said last week on a conference call that he expects one in the second half of 2017. In the wake of the Republicans’ failed effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, Democrats have plugged their own agenda, including drug-price controls. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled his own plan this week.