Shkreli Plans to Plead the Fifth at Congressional Hearing

  • Former biotech CEO subpoenaed for questions on drug pricing
  • Executive hasn't sought bail approval for trip, Cummings says

The lawyer representing Martin Shkreli, the former biotech executive charged with securities fraud, has asked that his client be excused from testifying at a congressional hearing next week since he plans to invoke the Fifth Amendment, according to a letter

In the letter sent Wednesday to Shkreli’s lawyer, Baruch Weiss, House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican from Utah, said Shkreli can’t invoke the Fifth Amendment, particularly for questions not related to his indictment.

Shkreli also hasn’t sought leave to travel to Washington, as required by his bail agreement, so he can comply with a subpoena to testify before Congress, according to a statement on Thursday from Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Cummings is the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which subpoenaed Shkreli to testify at a Jan. 26 hearing on developments in the prescription drug marketplace.

“Neither Mr. Shkreli nor any of his legal representatives has taken any steps to inform the judge in his federal criminal case about the subpoena he received from the Committee ten days ago,” a basic requirement for seeking leave to travel, according to the Cummings statement.

Self-Incrimination

The committee could agree to hear Shkreli’s testimony in executive session or immunize his testimony, Chaffetz said. The Fifth Amendment protects against self-incrimination.

Shkreli commented on the Chaffetz letter in a Twitter post on Thursday.

“Your attempt to subvert my constitutional right to the 5th amendment are disgusting & insulting to all Americans,” Shkreli said in the tweet.

Cummings said Shkreli could be held in contempt and receive jail time and financial penalties if he doesn’t show up.

“If he plans on trying to use his own intentional inaction as some kind of bogus excuse for not showing up at Tuesday’s hearing, people will see right through such a juvenile tactic,” Cummings said.

Company Documents

The committee has asked for documents from several companies about how drugs are priced. These include Valeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc. and Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, Shkreli’s former company. Turing rose to notoriety last year after it acquired a decades-old anti-parasitic treatment and overnight raised the price to $750 a pill from $13.50.

Valeant’s interim chief executive officer, Howard Schiller, will testify at the Jan. 26 hearing. Turing also confirmed that its chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, will testify.

“Since receiving the initial inquiry from the Oversight Committee about pricing, Turing Pharmaceuticals has worked continuously to provide Congressional staff with briefings and written information, answer questions, and assure them that a Turing representative would participate in the hearing,” according to an e-mailed statement from the company.

Shkreli is facing charges related to another former company, separate from Turing, and to several hedge funds he used to run. He has maintained his innocence -- including on his Twitter feed -- and pleaded not guilty. As of Wednesday, it appeared he hadn’t decided whether to attend the congressional hearing.

“Haven’t decided yet,” he tweeted. “Should I?”

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