Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced tech wunderkind whose blood-testing startup Theranos was revealed to be based on sham science, has often been referred to as the ultimate Silicon Valley scammer. Now, she’s been accused of scamming her lawyers as well, who are asking to be removed from her employ because she hasn’t been able to pay them for their services.
In a recent court filing, Holmes’s lawyers, who are representing her against the plaintiffs of a class-action fraud lawsuit, are attempting to remove themselves from the case, claiming that they hadn’t been paid by Holmes in almost a year. According to the Washington Post, three lawyers at Cooley LLP, the Palo-Alto-based litigation firm representing Holmes in the suit, are trying to remove themselves from the case, claiming that the firm “has no expectation that Ms. Holmes will ever pay it for its services as her counsel.”
Although a judge has not yet ruled on Cooley’s request to be removed from the case, the firm was hired to represent Holmes in a massive 2016 class action lawsuit filed against her, Theranos, and the drugstore chain Walgreens, which at one point had struck a deal to offer Theranos’s blood-testing services to customers. In the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix in 2016, consumers allege that Holmes, Theranos and Walgreens knowingly participated in a “massive fraud” by offering the blood test, which was revealed by a Wall Street Journal investigation to have been ineffective and based on junk science.
A tech entrepreneur who once topped Forbes’ list of youngest self-made female billionaires, Holmes dropped out of Stanford University when she was just 19 to found Theranos, which she told Silicon Valley investors would revolutionize the world of diagnostic testing. Journalists and investors were captivated by Holmes’ youth, beauty, and academic credentials, and she was quickly able to amass a network of high-profile backers to help fund the company, to the degree that it was at one point valued at $9 billion.
A 2015 Wall Street Journal investigation, however, questioned the efficacy of Theranos’s blood-testing services, also shedding light on some of Holmes’ questionable management tactics and the company’s legal team’s attempts to strong-arm its critics. Facing a barrage of lawsuits, Holmes was forced to shutter Theranos in 2018, and she and her former partner Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani were indicted on federal fraud charges earlier this year.
Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted, as well as millions of dollars in fines. Her trial is scheduled for August 2020.