Elizabeth Holmes says she forged pharma reports—for all the right reasons

Enlarge / Theranos founder and former CEO Elizabeth Holmes along with her partner, Billy Evans, right, leave the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building on November 23, 2021 in San Jose, Calif. (credit: Ethan Swope/Getty Images)

Elizabeth Holmes spent over six hours on the stand yesterday, trying to make the case that, while mistakes were made, she never meant to defraud anyone.

It’s an argument that appears to rely heavily on nuance and emotion. When Holmes handed investors forged reports, did she mean to deceive them? When she shared overly optimistic financial projections, was she merely relying on the work of others? When she declined to tell investors that Theranos was using third-party devices to run blood tests—contrary to her company’s carefully cultivated public image—was she being duplicitous or merely protecting her company’s hard-won trade secrets?

How the jury interprets Holmes’ answers will likely depend on her performance under cross-examination, which has yet to begin. But her testimony yesterday attempted to paint an image of a conscientious executive who was misguided at key decision points. She and her attorneys dropped hints that, at each of those points, her intentions were noble, ranging from selflessness to trust, respect, and even motherly protectiveness.

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