Thursday morning, former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO and current metaphor for the sickness in the soul of America Martin Shkreli was called to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Shkreli spent the hearing pleading the Fifth, but first, he earned a scolding for smirking.
Newly-released memos confirmed that Shkreli wrote terrible, giddy emails to an unidentified person after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, acquired the drug Daraprim and jacked up the price.
“So 5,000 paying bottles at the new price is $375,000,000 — almost all of it is profit and I think we will get three years of that or more,” he wrote.
This morning, Shkreli was called to testify, along with another drug company CEO, Howard B. Schiller of Valeant Pharmaceuticals, who also sent very unwise emails about how to maximize the company’s profits via charging more money for two life-saving heart medications, Nitropress and Isuprel.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, who released those damning memos from Shkreli and Schiller, delivered an opening statement that was largely a harsh lecture against Shkreli. He got madder when he spotted Shkreli smiling.
Shkreli repeatedly invoked his 5th Amendment right against self-incrimination, even when Rep. Troy Gowdy made fun of his “little webcam”—you remember his nightly, occasionally creepy webcam broadcasts- and his purchase of that WuTang album.
Shkreli resigned from Turing in mid-December after he was indicted on unrelated securities fraud charges. Rep. Elijah Cummings, when he spoke again, told Shkreli he wanted to “plead with you” to get Turing to lower the price of Daraprim once more.
“I know you’re smiling,” Cummings added, as Shkreli did that again. “But I’m very serious, sir. The way I see it, you can go down in history as the poster boy for greedy drug company executives, or you can change the system. You have detailed knowledge about drug companies and the system we have today, and I truly believe—are you listening?”
“Yes,” Shkreli replied
“I truly believe you could become a force of tremendous good,” Cummings said, begging him against to “reflect on it” before ending with “God bless you.”
Shkreli didn’t respond. Soon after, Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz ordered that Shkreli be excused. He said he doesn’t intend to hold Shkreli in contempt.
Meanwhile, in his statement, Valeant CEO Schiller sounded repentant, more or less.
“Mr. Chairman, we made mistakes, we’re listening, and we’re changing,” Schiller told the committee, promising the company’s future drug price increases would be “well within industry norms.”
Update, 12 p.m.:
Shkreli has been busily not taking the Fifth on Twitter, which seems like a really bad idea.
Image via AP.