Shkreli Taunts Congress as Judge Lets Him Attend Hearing

Meet Martin Shkreli, Internet Star
  • Ex-biotech CEO received subpoena to testify on drug pricing
  • Shkreli faces securities case, said he will plead the Fifth

Former biotech executive Martin Shkreli can go to Washington to testify at a congressional hearing on drug pricing, though he’s vowed to plead the Fifth even as he posted messages on Twitter taunting politicians.

Shkreli, who gained notoriety for boosting the price of a decades-old anti-parasitic treatment his company acquired to $750 a pill from $13.50, was directed to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. A hearing scheduled for Tuesday was postponed to Feb. 4 because of a snowstorm in Washington over the weekend.

In a short order posted Monday on the Brooklyn federal court’s docket, U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto said she would amend the terms of Shkreli’s $5 million bail package in an unrelated stock fraud case to allow him to travel for the purposes of the hearing.

Shkreli, formerly CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, was arrested at his Manhattan apartment on Dec. 17 and accused of defrauding investors in hedge funds he founded. He pleaded not guilty to those charges.

The former executive has said he will invoke his constitutional protection against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and refuse to testify if forced to appear at the committee hearing.

Criminal Liability

Although the fraud case against Shkreli has nothing to do with drug pricing, his lawyers told the committee that testifying at the hearing may open him up to criminal liability because of ongoing probes by the Federal Trade Commission and New York attorney general.

A spokeswoman for Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Republican
from Utah, declined to immediately comment on the order. Marcus Asner, a lawyer for Shkreli, didn’t immediately respond to a call and e-mail seeking comment.

In a letter filed Friday, Shkreli’s lawyers asked for “guidance” from the judge and that a subpoena from the committee be quashed or delayed “if the court decides that Mr. Shkreli may not leave the eastern and southern districts of New York in order to attend the committee hearing.” The committee may seek contempt charges against Shkreli if he doesn’t appear, the lawyers said.

Before Friday’s letter, Shkreli made no attempt to seek any alteration of his bail terms to allow for travel. Known to vent frustration on social media, the 32-year-old took to Twitter to criticize the lawmakers’ attempts to compel him to testify.

Twitter Comment

“You want me to go to DC to just say ‘I plead the 5th’? For your entertainment?” he asked lawmakers in a Jan. 22 message posted on Twitter.

After it became clearer with Matsumoto’s ruling Monday that he may be forced to attend the hearing, or else be charged with contempt, Shkreli tweeted to a biotech writer: "Oh, there is nothing id like more than to tear Congress a new one."

The case is U.S. v. Shkreli, 15-cr-00637, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).

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