Elizabeth Holmes resists government efforts to detail her CEO lifestyle

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former CEO of Theranos, arrives for motion hearing on Monday, November 4, 2019, at the U.S. District Court House inside Robert F. Peckham Federal Building in San Jose, California.

Yichuan Cao | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Elizabeth Holmes’ attorneys strongly pushed back against the government’s attempts to detail her extravagant lifestyle before a jury, saying the move “risks invoking class prejudice” that is irrelevant to her criminal case.

Holmes, who is facing a dozen criminal wire fraud charges, earned a salary and benefits commensurate with her position as CEO of Theranos, her attorneys wrote in court documents filed late Tuesday.

The government has argued that Holmes’ high-flying lifestyle was fueled by her fraud.

Her attorneys say that’s simply untrue.

They write the evidence says nothing about her motive, “if it did any CEO could be said to have a motive to commit fraud. Rather the real value of the evidence to the government is to paint a (misleading) picture of Ms. Holmes as a woman who prioritized fashion, a luxurious lifestyle, and fame, and to invite a referendum on startup and corporate culture.”

Introducing details of Holmes’ spending, her attorneys wrote, would be a waste of time, adding that her so-called luxurious travel accommodations appear to be approved by the Theranos board and justified by a busy travel schedule.

“Evidence regarding the purchase of expensive clothing, makeup and self-care products, and other goods (again, none of which are alleged to be beyond her means), which the government intends to introduce through otherwise irrelevant emails by Ms. Holmes’ personal assistants, does not establish a motive to commit fraud” Holmes’ attorneys wrote, adding that it instead “seeks to inflame by appealing to stereotypes of class and gender.”

Holmes often wore a black turtleneck sweater, an image she cultivated in print and broadcast media. Her attorneys point out that much of her clothing was purchased for work events, adding “the government ignores that Ms. Holmes was criticized for wearing the same outfit every day.”

Holmes’ attorneys argue her motive for making money as a CEO is “a proposition that could apply to anyone, whether rich or poor.”  

Last month, prosecutors said the fact that Holmes’ gained a variety of tangible and intangible benefits “tends to show that she intended to defraud in order to obtain those benefits.”

Holmes, a Stanford dropout, had a six-figure salary and a billion dollar stake in Theranos until the company shut down in 2018.

One of the themes that has emerged in the government’s voluminous case filings has been that Holmes was more motivated by money and fame than revolutionizing the health-care industry.

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