How does a series of ethical lapses and lax oversight enable someone to achieve a $9 billion valuation for a service predicated on lies? You can find out from the keynote speaker, John Carreyrou, a two-time Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist, at the 2022 BBB Torch Awards for Ethics (formerly known as the BBB Integrity Awards) Luncheon on September 21.
While an investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal in 2015, Carreyrou began a series of articles on Theranos, a Silicon Valley blood-testing startup founded by Elizabeth Holmes. He questioned the firm’s claim to run a wide range of lab tests from a tiny sample of blood from a single finger prick. There was just one problem: the technology didn’t work. Erroneous results put patients in danger, leading to misdiagnoses and unnecessary treatments. All the while, Holmes and her partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, worked to silence anyone who voiced misgivings — from journalists to their own employees.
Holmes even turned to Rupert Murdoch to kill the story; Murdoch’s media empire included Carreyrou’s employer. But Murdoch, who became the biggest investor in Theranos when he injected $125 million into the operation in 2015, refused the request from Holmes saying that “he trusted the paper’s editors to handle the matter fairly.”
Carreyrou’s articles provided provocative insights that resulted in the uncovering of what turned out to be the biggest corporate fraud since Enron and also opened the investigative floodgates that eventually led to the demise of Theranos in 2018. Also, in 2018, Carreyrou’s book about what he discovered about Holmes and Theranos, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” was published by Knopf. It became a New York Times national bestseller.
In November 2021, Holmes was found guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud – a verdict that will probably send her to prison and have major implications for Silicon Valley. In June 2022, Balwani was convicted for defrauding investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars, and defrauding doctors and patients. Many consider the verdicts “an indictment of Silicon’s Valley’s ‘fake it till you make it’ ethos.”
John Carreyrou is also prominently featured in a documentary about Theranos called “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” and in 2021 he released a podcast called “Bad Blood: The Final Chapter, covering the trial of Elizabeth Holmes.”