The prosecution in the trial of former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli called more investors to testify about alleged malfeasance by Shkreli during his time as a hedge-fund manager on Monday. And while two witnesses echoed earlier descriptions of Shkreli being evasive when investors asked for their money, both ultimately admitted that they were paid back with interest.
One corroborated an earlier witness’s claim that Shkreli became evasive when asked to return clients’ money, stalling for more than a year before making investors whole with questionable payouts from Retrophin, the pharmaceutical company he co-founded, as well as grants of Retrophin stock, which is now worth $20 a share.
Another played into the portrayal of Shkreli that defense attorney Benjamin Brafman has sought to sell to the jury: That any liberties taken by Shkreli were ultimately made in good faith, but his clients’ odd behavior and personality quirks at times caused friction between him and his clients.
Schuyler Marshall, chairman of the board of the real estate company Rosewood Corp, said the former drug company executive reminded him of Dustin Hoffman's autistic character in the movie "Rain Man," according to Reuters. Though Marshall added under cross-examination by Shkreli's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, that he was not claiming Shkreli was autistic.
"'The reference here was that this was just an intensely focused, bright guy who knew his stuff,'" Marshall told jurors. Hoffman's character in the 1988 film is an autistic savant with exceptional mental abilities but difficulty relating to other people.
Like other investors who have testified in the trial, Marshall, who invested more than $200,000 in MSMB Capital, said that while Shkreli misled him about the fund's operations, he did not lose money. At one point, Marshall testified, he even used the phrase "no harm, no foul" in a communication with Shkreli.
'He paid back my investment and then some,' Marshall said.”
Shkreli is being tried on eight counts of securities fraud and wire fraud related to his time running two hedge funds, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, and a pharmaceutical company he founded called Retrophin. In particular, Shkreli has been accused of falsifying investor statements, backdating documents and misleading investors about his record as a fund manager. He also allegedly misstated how much money was in the funds, according to prosecutor G. Karthik Srinivasan, who, in his opening statement, accused Shkreli of being a “con man” who managed to convince his investors that he was “a Wall Street genius.”
Last week, judge Kiyo Matsumoto hit Shkreli with a partial gag order, prohibiting him from talking about his case in or around the Brooklyn courthouse after he went on a rant to reporters gathered there last week. The order leaves him free to speak with journalists and conduct his marathon livestreams on YouTube.
Another witness on Monday, the seventh day of a trial that’s expected to last for as long as six weeks, was somewhat less charitable.
Richard Kocher, 65, told a Brooklyn federal jury Monday that his construction business saw a deal fall apart while he begged Shkreli to return his investments in a hedge fund, but the former pharmaceutical executive told him he was too busy running his new drug company, according to Bloomberg.
Kocher told the Brooklyn jury that, in one of his first forays into the hedge fund world in early 2012, he put $100,000 into Shkreli’s fund because he was assured investors could get their money back anytime. In May 2012, Kocher said he bailed out the fund, putting in another $100,000 after one of Shkreli’s employees told him it had a shortfall. Shkreli announced in September of 2012 he was closing his funds to focus on Retrophin Inc., but promising customers a full refund or shares in the startup pharmaceutical company.
Kocher pleaded for his money for five months but said he got a “run around” and Shkreli only offered 23,654 shares of Retrophin stock, which at the time he couldn’t sell.
“When you were in trouble and needed $100,000, I wired it over to you the next day,” Kocher wrote Shkreli in a March 2013 email. “I expect to get, in addition to this (insulting) untradable stock” my money back, he wrote.
However, Kocher too was eventually paid back…with interest. Though he says it's hard to say if he ultimately came out ahead, given the opportunity costs.
“Shkreli eventually returned Kocher’s investments. Kocher also sold the Retrophin stock, after several years, making about $350,000 in total profit. But Kocher said he had to pay a lawyer, lost a business deal and lost time from his business, so he’s not sure if he ended up ahead.”
If convicted, Shkreli could face up to 20 years in prison. He has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence.