Former Theranos exec Ramesh Balwani convicted of fraud, faces up to 20 years in prison

Former Theranos exec Ramesh Balwani convicted of fraud, faces up to 20 years in prison
Former Theranos COO Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani (center) and his legal team leave the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building on July 7, 2022 in San Jose, California. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Updated 08 July 2022

Former Theranos exec Ramesh Balwani convicted of fraud, faces up to 20 years in prison

Former Theranos exec Ramesh Balwani convicted of fraud, faces up to 20 years in prison
  • US jury found Balwani guilty of collaborating with disgraced CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a massive fraud that defrauded both Theranos investors and patients who relied on wildly unreliable blood tests that could have jeopardized their health

SAN JOSE, California: A jury on Thursday convicted former Theranos executive Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani of collaborating with disgraced Theranos CEO Elizabeth Holmes in a massive fraud involving the blood-testing company that once enthralled Silicon Valley.
The 12 jurors found Balwani guilty on all 12 felony counts of defrauding both Theranos investors and the patients who relied on wildly unreliable blood tests that could have jeopardized their health.
Balwani sat impassively as the verdicts were read in a San Jose, California, court, blinking frequently but rarely looking at the seven women and five men who convicted him.
The outcome puts Balwani and Holmes in similar situations. Holmes was convicted on four counts of investor fraud and conspiracy earlier this year. During that trial, Holmes tearfully accused Balwani of sexually and emotionally abusing her while the two were romantically involved. An attorney for Balwani has vehemently denied those charges.
Both Holmes, 38, and Balwani, 57, face up to 20 years in prison.
After the verdicts, US District Judge Edward Davila raised Balwani’s bail to $750,000 from $500,000 and set Nov. 15 as his sentencing date. Holmes, who is free on $500,000 bail, is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 26.
The dual convictions represent a resounding victory for federal prosecutors, who seized on the Theranos case as a rare opportunity to hold ambitious entrepreneurs accountable for engaging in technological hyperbole while pursuing fame and fortune. In the process, they hoped to discourage the practice of making bold and unproven promises about still-nascent products — a startup strategy known as “fake it until you make it.”
“We are gratified by the jury’s hard work and attentiveness to the evidence presented. We appreciate the verdict and look forward to the sentencing proceedings,” US Attorney Stephanie Hinds said outside the courthouse.

BACKGROUND

Founded by Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos once enthralled Silicon Valley with its supposedly new blood testing technology that could potentially revolutionize health

Balwani invested in Theranos, then became the company's chief operating officer in 2010. He eventually oversaw the blood-testing lab that was delivering the inaccurate results 

Holmes and Balwani, who were also romantic partners, managed to con top investors and personalities into joining Theranos

Everything began to unravel in late 2015 after a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal that exposed rampant problems with Theranos’ technology

Balwani didn’t respond to requests for comment as he left court with his legal team.
After the verdicts were read and the jury was dismissed, Balwani walked over to his two brothers who were sitting behind him for what appeared to be a solemn discussion. The three stood quietly, heads bowed.
While Holmes insinuated during her trial that Balwani manipulated her into making poor choices, Balwani’s lawyers explicitly sought to shift all the blame for any misconduct squarely on Holmes.
As part of Balwani’s defense, the lawyers pointed out that Holmes was not only CEO, but also a Silicon Valley star who persuaded investors to pour nearly $1 billion into Theranos. Holmes boasted that her company had found a way to scan for hundreds of potential diseases with a device called the Edison that could test just a few drops of blood taken with a finger prick. Such technology could potentially revolutionize health care.
But it turned out that the Edison never worked properly, providing faulty test results that Theranos conducted as part of a deal to set up mini labs in Walgreen’s pharmacies. The flaws in Theranos’ vaunted technology prompted Holmes and Balwani to shift their testing to conventional machines made by other vendors and while drawing vials of blood from patients’ veins — a far cry from Holmes’ promises.
After committing about $15 million of his own money to bolster Theranos and then becoming the company’s chief operating officer in 2010, Balwani eventually oversaw the blood-testing lab that was delivering the inaccurate results and supervised the Walgreen’s deal. That crucial detail may have influenced the jury to convict him of defrauding patients while another jury acquitted Holmes on the same charges.
Balwani also prepared many of the projections about Theranos’ future revenue that helped the company raise money from investors Those forecasts proved to be grossly exaggerated.
Unlike Holmes, who spent seven days on the witness stand during her trial, Balwani didn’t testify in his own defense. After Holmes’ trial, jurors who were interviewed by the media said they found her to be likeable if not entirely credible.
“The reason he didn’t testify is probably because he knows he doesn’t have Elizabeth’s charisma,” said Jill Huntley Taylor, a longtime jury consultant who also assists with trial strategy.
Balwani’s decision not to tell his side of the story left jurors to make their decision based solely on the evidence, which included testimony from witnesses who depicted him as an often abrasive executive.
“Just because the jurors didn’t hear from Balwani didn’t mean they couldn’t form opinions of him,” Huntley Taylor said.
Balwani’s defense mirrored Holmes’s in one key aspect: Both depicted the pair as tireless workers who believed so deeply in Theranos’ technology that they never sold their respective stakes in the Palo Alto, California, company. At one point in 2014, Holmes’ fortune was estimated at $4.5 billion while Balwani’s Theranos holdings were valued at $500 million.
But everything began to unravel in late 2015 after a series of explosive articles in The Wall Street Journal exposed rampant problems with Theranos’ technology. By May 2016, Holmes had dumped Balwani as her business and romantic partner. Holmes is now the mother of an infant son fathered by her current partner, Billy Evans, who was by her side through most of her trial.


Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension

Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension
Updated 8 min 28 sec ago

Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension

Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli signs contract extension
  • The 21-year-old Brazil international has scored seven goals this season to boost Arsenal's title bid

LONDON: Arsenal forward Gabriel Martinelli has signed a “long-term” contract extension, the Premier League leaders said Friday.
The 21-year-old Brazil international has scored seven goals this season to boost Arsenal’s title bid in his fourth season in north London.
The club did not specify the length of the deal but manager Mikel Arteta called it “a new long-term contract.”
“Gabi is still very young, so we know there’s still much more to come from him and it’s great that we’ll be on this journey together,” Arteta said in the club’s announcement.
Martinelli was not quoted in the announcement.
The forward has started all 19 league games this season. He has made 111 appearances in his Arsenal career since signing from Sao Paulo club Ituano in July 2019.


Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie

Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie
Updated 29 min 7 sec ago

Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie

Lebanese influencer Karen Wazen spends the day with Angelina Jolie

DUBAI: Lebanese influencer and entrepreneur Karen Wazen took to Instagram to share a photograph of herself with Hollywood superstar Angelina Jolie at a cocktail event hosted by French label Guerlain in Paris. 

“This was very special,” the eyewear designer said in a caption to the post. 

“As part of my ongoing collaboration with the maison I was honored to attend an intimate cocktail (event) at Guerlain’s iconic boutique — 68 Avenue des Champs-Elysees — with Angelina Jolie, as well as Guerlain’s experts from its bee conservation program,” Wazen told her 7.9 million followers. 

“Together we discussed the brand’s bee conservation program, including the Bee School, founded by Guerlain and led by its employees, a volunteer program developed to educate young children across the world on the bee’s importance to ecosystems and biodiversity for which I am excited to host here in the Middle East in 2023,” she said. 

In March 2022, the By Karen Wazen founder was announced as the first regional ambassador for the beauty house.

Wazen is representing Guerlain’s full skincare line as a long-time advocate for the brand. The Dubai-based influencer has said she shares the same principles and passions as the house, including sustainability, and both aim to empower women across the region.

“I am very proud to become the Middle Eastern ambassador for Guerlain,” Wazen said at the time. “As a house whose DNA and heritage are in complete, authentic alignment with my own ethos, I look forward to this beautiful and exciting new chapter together.”


MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm
Updated 33 min 56 sec ago

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm

MBC Group names Christina Wayne as managing director of its studio arm
  • She replaces Peter Smith, who stepped down last week
  • Wayne brings ‘wealth of international expertise,’ group CEO Sam Barnett says

LONDON: MBC Group on Friday announced the appointment of Christina Wayne as the new managing director of its production arm, MBC Studios.

Group CEO Sam Barnett said the company was “incredibly excited” by the appointment.

“Christina brings with her a wealth of international expertise in content development and production where she has worked across a multitude of territories and languages, and led on the development of Emmy and Golden Globe award-winning series,” he said.

“We look forward to her building on the team’s successes as we continue to expand our horizons in international content even further.”

Wayne is a seasoned executive and producer with more than 25 years of international experience writing, directing and producing TV shows and films.

Before joining MBC Studios, she was principal creative executive and head of Canada and Australia at Amazon Studios, a position she had held since 2019.

A member of the Writers Guild of America since 1997, Wayne has also held positions with Assembly Entertainment, Cineflix Studios and AMC, and worked on a host of award-winning productions, including “Mad Men,” “Breaking Bad” and “Broken Trail.”

“I am absolutely delighted to join MBC Group and MBC Studios and have heard great things about the incredible team Peter and the rest of MBC have built,” she said.

“This is a very exciting venture for me, and I cannot wait to get fully involved in one of the world’s most exciting territories for content production.”

Wayne takes over from Peter Smith, who stepped down last week after four years at the helm of MBC Studios. During that time he helped launch the production arm of the free-to-air network MBC and led numerous flagship Arabic-language productions.

Building on Smith’s legacy, Wayne will continue to push into premium non-English-language TV programming and broaden the reach of MBC Group’s content to consumers worldwide.


Along Ukraine-Belarus border, a war of nerves — and drones

Along Ukraine-Belarus border, a war of nerves — and drones
Updated 39 min 17 sec ago

Along Ukraine-Belarus border, a war of nerves — and drones

Along Ukraine-Belarus border, a war of nerves — and drones
  • Ukrainian units are monitoring the 1,000-kilometer frontier of marsh and woodland for a possible surprise offensive from the north
  • Residents of villages in the region that were temporarily occupied last year are horrified by the prospect of it all starting again

BELARUS BORDER, Ukraine: The reconnaissance drones fly several times a day from Ukrainian positions deep inside the thick forest that marches across the border into Belarus, a close Russian ally, scouring sky and land for signs of trouble on the other side.
Ukrainian units are monitoring the 1,000-kilometer (650-mile) frontier of marsh and woodland for a possible surprise offensive from the north, a repeat of the unsuccessful Russian thrust toward Kyiv at the start of the war nearly a year ago.
This time the Ukrainians are taking no chances. Since the summer they have been reinforcing defenses, building and expanding trenches and laying mines in the forest ahead of the springtime offensive military officials expect. Residents of villages in the region that were temporarily occupied last year are horrified by the prospect of it all starting again.
“We’re listening out for every small sound and noise. This isn’t a way to live,” said Valentina Matveva, 64, from the village of Ripke. “When you’re in constant fear, that’s not life.”
Concerns of a renewed military push were stirred in January after Russia and Belarus held joint air force drills, one month after a rare visit by Russian President Vladimir Putin to Minsk.
Military experts and Western intelligence have played down the possibility of a renewed northern offensive. The British Defense Ministry tweeted on Jan. 11 that Russian aircraft and existing Russian troops in Belarus, though numerous, are “unlikely to constitute a credible offensive force.”
Belarusian officials attribute the troop deployment along the border to “strategic deterrence” according to local reports. The country’s authoritarian president, Alexander Lukashenko, has insisted he will not send troops to Ukraine.
But Ukrainian commanders are wary, remembering how Russia used Belarus as a launching pad in early 2022.
“We continuously monitor the enemy from the ground and observe the movement of troops, if they are moving, how many troops, and where they are moving,” the area’s army intelligence unit head said during a press tour this week a few kilometers from the border. The officer only identified himself by his first name, Oleksandr, citing security reasons.
Unlike the east with its devastating artillery duels, here in the north it’s largely a war of quadcopters.
Oleksandr said the Belarusians and Russians are “constantly monitoring our guard changes, trying to find our military’s positions.”
At times, Oleksandr’s unit detects enemy reconnaissance drones and shoots them down using anti-drone rifles. Or an enemy drone detects a Ukrainian one and tails it, at which point the Ukrainians try to capture and add it to their stock.
“We got four of their drones this way recently, and they took two of ours,” Oleksandr said.
He says the reconnaissance missions have revealed no sign of worrying activity — yet. “They have a reinforcement section, and the patrol has been strengthened, but we do not observe a significant accumulation of troops from our section,” he said.
Ukraine’s Lt. Gen. Oleksii Pavlyuk, who is responsible for Kyiv province, was quoted in local reports as saying his country was preparing for a possible fresh attack through Belarus. “We’ve created a group on the border with Belarus, which is ready to meet the enemy with dignity,” he was quoted as saying.
Ukrainian officials argue that no one can know how Moscow will move in the coming months, and that a state of alert is necessary along the border.
“The (fortifications) were made to prevent re-infiltration,” said Oleksandr, “Whether it will happen or not, we must always be ready.”
Ukrainian soldiers armed with machine guns stand in five-foot-deep trenches dug into the forest floor and reinforced with planks.
A local villager briskly cycles past. Memories here are still fresh from the temporary occupation when Russian troops attempted to lay siege to the main city of Chernihiv. They withdrew on April 3 as Moscow switched its focus to Ukraine’s eastern provinces.
But despite the Russian-Belarusian drills, there’s also hope.
“The first time they invaded, we didn’t have the weapons and the army (at the border),” said Hanna Pokheelko, 66, from the village of Koluchivka. “But this time we do.”
Attack or no attack, Olena, from the village of Novi Yarylovychi, fears the border situation means she may never see her mother, brother and two sisters living just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away in a village inside Belarus.
“I can’t believe they are so close and I can’t see them,” said the 63-year old, who is a Belarusian by birth but married into a Ukrainian family and who didn’t give her full name out of concerns for her family.


IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM

IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM
Updated 03 February 2023

IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM

IMF giving Pakistan tough time in ‘unimaginable’ economic crisis — PM
  • Local currency at record low after being in free fall
  • Foreign reserves down less than three weeks import cover

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Friday the International Monetary Fund was giving his country a tough time over unlocking stalled funding from a $6.5 billion bailout, at a time of “unimaginable” economic crisis.
Hours after his remarks, the Pakistani rupee hit a record low against the US dollar in a steep slide since last week.
Sharif made the comments in a meeting of civil and military leaders in the northwestern city of Peshawar he chaired to prepare a response to Monday’s mosque bombing that killed more than 100 people.
“Our economic situation is unimaginable,” the premier said. “As you know, the IMF mission is in Pakistan, and that’s giving us a tough time,” he said.
“You all know we are running short of resources,” Sharif said, adding Pakistan “at present was facing an economic crisis.”
IMF’s Pakistan representative did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
Sharif made the remarks in the context of funds the country might need for any military or counter-terrorism response to the resurgent Islamist militancy.
FREE FALL
The IMF mission is visiting Pakistan to discuss fiscal consolidation measures the institution needs from Pakistan to clear a 9th review of its Extended Fund Facility, aimed at helping countries facing balance-of-payments crises.
Pakistan’s central bank reserves at present stand at $3.09 billion, the lowest since 1998 and not enough to cover the cost of three weeks of imports.
The IMF’s demands aimed at controlling the country’s budget deficit have led to Pakistan leaving its currency to market based exchange rates and hiking fuel prices.
The Pakistani rupee fell by 1.9 percent to a record low of 276.58 per dollar in the inter-bank market on Friday, according to the central bank.
The local currency has dropped 16.5 percent since the artificial cap was removed last week to leave the rupee’s value to be decided by a market-based exchange rate regime.
The rupee also shed 2.65 percent against the US dollar on the open market, according to the association of exchange companies.
Islamabad is in a $6.5 billion IMF program.
An IMF delegation is in Pakistan to restart talks stalled since November for $2.5 billion funds yet to be disbursed.
Still, despite the economic situation, Sharif said his country will do whatever possible to fight militancy.
“We will use all resources in our capacity to fight this menace,” he said.

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