Experts: Lack of remorse could bite ‘Pharma Bro’
New York — Less than an hour after a U.S. jury convicted Martin Shkreli of securities fraud, the so-called “Pharma Bro” was back at his New York City apartment doing what comes naturally: trash talking in a live-stream on YouTube.
The brash former pharmaceutical CEO, who’s still out on bail, joked he won’t be going to a hard-core prison — “No shanks” — and predicted his acquittal on some charges Friday will help him recover tens of millions of dollars he claims he’s owed from a drug company he started.
“It doesn’t seem like life will change much for Martin Shkreli,” he said while drinking a beer and playing with his cat. “I’m one of the richest New Yorkers there is, and after today’s outcome, it’s going to stay that way.”
Shkreli’s trolling of his own trial has amused some onlookers. But legal experts say it could have serious consequences when it comes time for sentencing.
“No real good can come from going on YouTube after a guilty verdict,” said Robert Mintz, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “This is exactly the kind of behavior that got him in trouble in the first place.”
U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto likely will factor in any lack of remorse and contrition at sentencing in federal court in Brooklyn, said Matthew Schwartz, a defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor who once worked for a Securities and Exchange Commission task force.
“Going into the trial, he had an audience of 12. Now he’s got an audience of one,” Schwartz said, referring to the jury and judge. “He’s putting himself at great risk for a higher sentence.”
The 34-year-old defendant faces up to 20 years in prison for his conviction on the most serious counts, though the term could be much lower under sentencing guidelines. Shkreli’s lawyer, Ben Brafman, said he would argue for no jail time. No sentencing date was set.
Shkreli was arrested in 2015 on charges he looted a drug company he founded, Retrophin, of $11 million in stock and cash to pay back investors in two failed hedge funds he ran. Investors took the witness stand to accuse him of keeping them in the dark as his scheme unfolded, while the defense argued there wasn’t any harm done because all of them got rich off of Retrophin stock.
Before his arrest, Shkreli was best known for buying the rights to a life-saving drug at another company in 2014 and promptly raising the price from $13.50 to $750 per pill. He also had a reputation for attacking critics on social media and was barred from Twitter for posts about a female journalist.
Even during his trial, when most criminal defendants would lay low, Shkreli stayed online commenting about his own case.
After the verdict, Brafman once again raised hopes he could reign in his client.
“There is an image issue that Martin and I are going to be discussing in the next several days. Martin is a brilliant young man, but sometimes people skills don’t translate well,” he said.
Not much later, Shkreli’s was on YouTube, answering questions about the case and cracking jokes. During his lengthy livestream, he invited one reporter up to his apartment to ask him questions on camera.
“Ben probably wants me to act and look like your average CEO, but I’m a very individualistic person and I don’t sort of conform to what folks want me to do and not want me to do, and that’s what being an individual is all about,” he said. “”As long as it doesn’t interfere with the legal case, it’s my life to live.”
Without more conformity, Shkreli’s lawyer will have his work cut out for him trying convince the court that he should be cut some slack as “someone who is not entirely normal,” said Schwartz, the former prosecutor. “Whether the judge will buy it or not is another question.”
The judge’s last words to the defendant as she left the bench offered no clues.
“I wish you well, Mr. Shkreli,” she said. “See you soon.”