In what many are already calling a victory for the “good guys,” Martin Shkreli may be looking at the end of his career. The former pharmaceutical CEO who earned the derisive nickname, “Pharma Bro,” has been found guilty of fraud. According to the conviction, Shkreli “deceived investors” in some hedge funds. The jury deliberated for five days before finding Shkreli guilty on three of eight counts. He had been charged with securities fraud and conspiracy to commit fraud.
The split decision is not really surprising. Many following the case have some trouble differentiating between where Shkreli actually committed fraud and when he was just offering tragically terrible investment advice. Prosecutors in the case were clear in their accusations that the defendant “repeatedly misled” investors about how he was actually using their money. They further claimed he was “scheming” to recover lost millions. In doing so, they alleged Shkreli told “lies upon lies.” In closing statements, they added that the trial had, “exposed Martin Shkreli for who he really is — a con man who stole millions…”
The jury clearly bought some of the accusations, but they also disagreed with others. And, despite the three convictions, Shkreli was happy when he met with reporters, saying he was “delighted” to have been acquitted of “the most important charges.” Then Shkreli’s attorney took over, and it was interesting to see him switch to messaging as a result of the verdict. Ben Brafman said Shkreli’s image, especially his presence on social media, needed some work. “There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next few days…”
Brafman continued, saying Shkreli was brilliant, but he needed to up his people skills if he wanted to keep himself out of these messes, both PR and legal, going forward. One of the images Shkreli will have to shed is the very one that Brafman used to help get him off on five of the eight counts. The attorney positioned Shkreli as a brilliant but naïve guy who was manipulated by “rich people” who saw a way to increase their wealth by tricking the young businessman. That image of a spoiled, egotistical child was not helped by Shkreli’s activities on social media, where he often came off as young and hopelessly out of touch. Then there were the attacks on his critics. He trolled so hard, and so often, Twitter eventually banned him.
So, what comes next for Shkreli? That’s tough to say. He’s in bad shape now, but he’s also young. He could turn this around … if he gets the right messaging and takes the right advice…and isn’t sentenced to 20 years in jail.