In the latest edition of our weekly series, EXPOSED!, we turn the spotlight on a man that made a living out of behaving like a piece of crap and enjoying it!
Some historical context
On August 4, 2017 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Martin Shkreli was found guilty on three of eight counts involving securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities and wire fraud that had been brought against him.
The headline doesn't sound so damning on first reading, but the story behind it and the man himself are where the real horrors lie.
The full story of Shkreli's corporate malfeasance plays out across 3 main acts of what was to become a modern Shakespearean tragedy cum docu-drama.
Act 1: Within two years of graduation, he had established his own hedge fund, Elea Capital Management, however, this collapsed within a year under the weight of a multimillion dollar lawsuit.
"I learned a lot about using leverage, the perils of leverage,"
Shkreli said of a $US2.6 million gamble that went wrong.
"Back then, this was almost 10 years ago, I was rushing to succeed. I made a monster bet that the market would crash, and I was wrong."
He bounced back quickly, however, with his second fund, MSMB Capital Management.
Act 2: In 2011, in his first foray into pharmaceuticals, he acquired the pharmaceutical company Retrophin, and along with it the rights to sell the drug Thiola, which at that time was being used by over 20,000 patients in the USA to treat rare and incurable kidney diseases.
Among his first actions was a price bump for the drug from $2 to $42 per dose.
This marked the start of a trend that soon turned the public against him. He was labelled "morally bankrupt" when, four years later, after acquiring Turing Pharmaceuticals, he raised the price of Daraprim, a drug used by cancer sufferers, pregnant women, newborns and those with HIV, from $US13.50 per tablet to $US750 per tablet.
Act 3: However, it was the frauds he committed as a hedge fund manager that finally took him down. Martin Shkreli, the smirking "Pharma Bro", as he had become known, was sentenced to prison for defrauding investors in his two failed hedge funds.
So who is he?
The son of European immigrants, Shkreli was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City. He was described as a "very gifted student" but one who never liked the "conformity or expectations" of school. He graduated with a business degree from Baruch College in New York in 2004.
He often appears awkward in public, an image that his defence attorney, Benjamin Brafman, wasn't slow to exploit during his opening statements in Shkreli's fraud case:
"Is he strange? Yes. Will you find him weird? Yes."
The reality is that he is an egomaniac whose decision to hike the price of lifesaving drugs by 5000% was surpassed only by his smug reaction to the outrage in its outrageousness!
"It's all a performance, he likes to play up his position as a supervillain."
Brent Hodge, filmmaker of "The Pharma Bro"
There it is, Shkreli revelled in the spotlight he had created for himself, which in turn fed his addiction to OPM - Other People's Money!
So where did it all go wrong?
Basically, he did everything he could to earn the title of "world's most hated man" and the consequences be damned!
Shkreli insisted on doing his own public relations following the price hike – which was a "car crash", Hodge added.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, just weeks before his arrest on fraud charges, Shkreli stated:.
"I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I liken myself to the robber barons"
And for good measure, he then compared himself favorably to Robin Hood and John D. Rockefeller at the same time.
Shkreli told reporters that his one regret was not raising the price even more. He loved the headlines that followed his decision in 2015 to raise the price of Daraprim, one that left many chronically ill people unable to afford their meds.
"I probably would have raised prices higher"
He is reported to have said, without the least sign of empathy or remorse. Hodge commented that Shkreli "wasn't helped by Martin being a jerk".
Hodge, who spent five years working on the recently released movie on Shkreli says the film is as much about the man as it is the laws that allowed him to get away with inflating the price of lifesaving drugs.
After appearing before a congressional committee and delivering a virtuoso performance in fuckwittery, Shkreli tweeted out:
“Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”
This bought forward the following:
“For him to tweet that for the world to see – wow – that seems to suggest, you know the rules don’t apply to me. When you see egotistical behavior or narcissistic behavior sort of on steroids, it can be absolutely breathtaking. Unfortunately we live in a time and a place where it’s all about ‘me’ and not about ‘we’ "
Thomas Plante, Santa Clara University professor of psychology, explaining that Shkreli may have personality issues but that this type of behavior is a growing trend in society.
How did he get away with it in the first place?
The laws that Shkreli exploited to spike the price of Daraprim remain perfectly legal.
And that, plus all the issues that plague the provision of medical supplies and treatments in the free market environment that prevails in the USA medical sector, will continue as long as profits are put before people, a point beautifully illustrated by Congresswoman, Katie Porter, during a recent hearing.
Unfortunately, his arrogance and malfeasance hasn't stopped there, he is currently under investigation for allegedly running his business whilst in prison.
And for that and numerous other reasons, his requests for parole have all been declined to date.
Some people never learn! But the bigger issues here are how can this even be legal and how can people with the mental instabilities demonstrated by Shkreli ever be allowed to run companies?