The Daily

Communication Breakdown (The Theranos Trial)

Communication breakdown / Its always the same

As the federal fraud trial against Theranos’ Elizabeth Holmes winds down, her lawyer argued a “fundamental disconnect” in the evidence. The charges revolve around Theranos’ blood testing devices. Holmes is charged with deliberately misleading investors from whom Theranos put together $700 Million in capital regarding the technology’s capability.

Downey told the jury that the government’s fixation on the shortcomings of early versions of the devices misses the point that Holmes was courting investors who were looking to hold onto shares for five or 10 years by telling them what she aspired to accomplish when the machines were fully developed.

“She believed she was building a technology that would change the world,” Downey said, adding that she’d sacrificed her youth, friends and family relationships to make Theranos successful.

Words matter. They matter when corporate officers are chasing higher stock prices. And they matter in a courtroom. Theranos’ technology never lived up to the hype, but that by itself doesn’t decide Elizabeth Holmes’ journey from the penthouse to the pavement.

In February 2015, a Stanford professor wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association that Theranos had no published peer-reviewed reports on its technology – a rarity for companies with similar breakthroughs. In October 2015, The Wall Street Journal reported that Theranos was running tests on traditional blood testing machines because the company’s Edison machines provided inaccurate results. A 60 Minutes investigative piece on the growing controversy followed – an ominous harbinger.

Artists on the edge of a stage are trying to communicate with their audience. It doesn’t always work. Art either rings true, or it does not. I’d argue that it seldom works at best. But there are moments where the veil drops – the thin tissue separating the art from the audience. It can fall when the words are right. Holmes’ lawyers and the Prosecution will try to pierce that veil to reach an understanding with the jury.

As with all trials, one side will have a communication breakdown.