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Martin Shkreli (/ËskrÉ›li/; born April 1, 1983) is an American entrepreneur and financial and pharmaceutical executive. He is co-founder of the hedge fund MSMB Capital Management, co-founder and former chief executive officer (CEO) of the biotechnology firm Retrophin LLC, and founder and former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals AG. In September 2015, Shkreli received widespread criticism when Turing obtained the manufacturing license for the antiparasitic drug Daraprim and raised its price by 5,556 percent (from US$13.50 to US$750 per tablet) leading him to be referred to by media as the "most hated man in america".
On December 17, 2015, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI on charges of securities fraud and released on bail. He resigned as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals and was replaced by the company's board chairman, Ron Tilles.
Early life and education
Martin Shkreli was born April 1, 1983, the son of Albanian and Croatian immigrants who worked as janitors. He, his two sisters, and his brother grew up in a working class community in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn.
Shkreli attended Hunter College High School. Shkreli dropped out before his senior year due to lack of interest, but received the credits necessary for his diploma through a program that placed him in an internship at the Wall Street hedge fund Cramer, Berkowitz and Company when he was 17. Sources are conflicted on whether Shkreli graduated from Hunter or whether he received sufficient credits there but actually graduated from City-As-School High School.
Shkreli went on to receive a bachelor's degree in business administration from New York's Baruch College in 2005. Shkreli told Vanity Fair that he developed an interest in chemistry when a family member suffered from treatment-resistant depression. In March 2015, Hunter College announced that Shkreli had donated $1,000,000 dollars to Hunter College High School. According to The New York Times, "Hunter officials [originally] hailed the gift, with the alumni association's website declaring 'Martin Shkreli, from the Class of 2001, donates $1,000,000 to HCHS!' When asked [later] whether Hunter was considering returning the money, a press officer declined to comment. Two members of the alumni association did not respond to emails. Several classmates say that when they heard about Mr. Shkreli's gift, they could not help but wonder whether it was meant as a sly act of one-upmanship." One of the classmates told the Times: "I thought it was weird since he hadn't graduated. It seemed almost li
ke a 'take that' move."
During Shkreli's time at Cramer, Berkowitz and Company, he recommended short-selling (shorting) a biotech stock, believing that the company's share price would drop. When it did so, Cramer's hedge fund profited. In 2003, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals was testing a weight loss drug, and Shkreli, at age 19, predicted that the stock price would fall. Shkreli's prediction drew the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission, which investigated Shkreli's knowledge about the stock but found no wrongdoing on his part.
Hedge funds founded
After four years as an associate at Cramer Berkowitz, Shkreli worked as an analyst for Intrepid Capital Management and UBS Wealth Management. He then started his first hedge fund, Elea Capital Management, in 2006. In October 2007, Lehman Brothers won a $2.3 million default judgment against Shkreli and Elea, but Lehman collapsed before it could collect on the ruling.
In September 2009, Shkreli launched MSMB Capital Management, which took its name from the initials of the two founding portfolio managers, Shkreli and his childhood friend Marek Biestek. Shkreli and Biestek shorted biotech companies, then described flaws in the companies on stock trading chat rooms. Shkreli wrote on one investment site, "Clinical data can be misleading, innocently biased, meaningless, manipulated and sometimes even downright doctored."
MSMB traded Orexigen Therapeutics stock in February 2011, around the time that its price plunged when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declined to approve the drug Contrave.
In 2011, Shkreli filed requests with the FDA to reject a new cancer diagnostic device from Navidea Biopharmaceuticals and an inhalable insulin therapy from MannKind Corporation while publicly short-selling both companies' stocks, the values of which dropped after Shkreli's interventions. The companies had difficulty launching the products as a result, although the FDA ultimately approved both.
Shkreli founded Retrophin Inc. (NASDAQ: RTRX â" the name is a portmanteau of "recombinant dystrophin") in 2011, and ran it as a portfolio company with an emphasis on biotechnology, to create treatments for rare diseases.
In 2011, MSMB made an unsolicited bid for AMAG Pharmaceuticals, US$378 million, and in September 2014, it acquired the rights to Thiola, a drug used to treat the rare disease cystinuria.
Retrophin's board decided to replace Shkreli in September 2014, and he resigned from the company the following month. He was replaced by Stephen Aselage. During Shkreli's tenure as CEO, the company's employees used alias Twitter accounts to make gangster rap jokes and encourage short selling of other biotech stocks. Critics argued that Shkreli was intelligent but too immature and unfocused for the job of CEO.
After Shkreli's departure, Retrophin filed a US$65 million lawsuit against him in August 2015, claiming that he had breached his duty of loyalty to the biopharmaceutical company in a long-running dispute over his use of company funds and "committed stock-trading irregularities and other violations of securities rules." The lawsuit alleged that Shkreli had threatened and harassed a former MSMB employee and his family. Shkreli and some of his business associates have been under criminal investigation by the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York since January 2015. Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in order to avoid testifying during civil depositions.
Shkreli's name is on two patents held by Retrophin for drugs to treat PKAN.
Shkreli founded Turing Pharmaceuticals in February 2015, after his departure from Retrophin. He launched Turing with three drugs in development acquired from Retrophin: an intranasal version of ketamine for depression, an intranasal version of oxytocin, and Vecamyl for hypertension. Shkreli set a business strategy for Turing: to obtain licenses on out-of-patent medicines and reevaluate the pricing of each in pursuit of windfall profits for the new company, without the need to develop and bring its own drugs to market. As markets for out-of-patent drugs are often small, and obtaining regulatory approval to manufacture a generic version is expensive, Turing calculated that with closed distribution for the product and no competition, it could set high prices.
Price hike controversy
In accordance with Shkreli's business plan, Turing acquired Daraprim (pyrimethamine) â" an FDA-approved therapeutic since 1953 â" for US$55 million on August 10, 2015, from Impax Laboratories. The drug's most prominent use as of late 2015 was as an anti-malarial and an antiparasitic, in conjunction with leucovorin and a sulfonamide, to treat patients with toxoplasmosis, including in AIDS populations. The patent for Daraprim expired in 1953, and no generic version was available. The Turing-Impax deal included the condition that Impax remove the drug from regular wholesalers and pharmacies, and so in June 2015, two months before the sale to Turing was announced, Impax switched to tightly controlled distribution. In keeping with its strategy for pricing in the face of limited competition (see above), Turing maintained the closed distribution.
On September 17, 2015, Dave Muoio of Healio, an in-depth clinical information website for health care specialists, reported on a letter from the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association to executives at Turing, questioning a new pricing for Daraprim. The price of a dose of the drug in the U.S. market increased from US$13.50 to US$750 per pill, overnight, a 5451% increase.
The price increase was initially criticized, jointly, by the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association, by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, and soon thereafter by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. A subsequent organized effort called on Turing to return pricing to pre-September levels and to address several matters relating to the needs of patients, an effort that garnered endorsements from more than 160 medical specialty and patient-related organizations (as of early December 2015, 164 organizations from 31 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico).
In response to the controversy, the record label Collect Records publicly ended its business relationship with Shkreli, who had invested in the company.
In an interview with Bloomberg Markets, Shkreli claimed that despite the price increase, patient co-pays would actually be lower; that many patients would get the drug at no cost; that Turing has expanded its free drug program; and that it sold half of its drugs for one dollar. He defended the price hike by saying, "If there was a company that was selling an Aston Martin at the price of a bicycle, and we buy that company and we ask to charge Toyota prices, I don't think that that should be a crime." A few days later, Shkreli announced that he planned to lower the price by an unspecified amount, "in response to the anger that was felt by people." But in late November, Turing reversed course and said it would not lower the price after all. Following a request by Senator Bernie Sanders and Representative Elijah Cummings for details of Turing Pharmaceuticals' finances and price-setting practices in September 2015, the company hired four lobbyists from Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney with ba
ckgrounds in health care legislation and pharmaceutical pricing. In addition to the lobbyists, Shkreli hired a crisis public relations firm to help explain the pricing decision.
On October 22, 2015, Mark Baum, CEO of Imprimis Pharmaceuticals, announced that his company would provide a compounded (co-formulated) form of pyrimethamine, Daraprim's active agent, containing leucovorin, one of two drugs (alongside a sulfonamide) in the standard protocol to treat toxoplasmosis in AIDS and other populations.
Baum noted, "This is not the first time a sole supply generic drug â" especially one that has been approved for use as long as Daraprim â" has had its price increased suddenly and to a level that may make it unaffordable." He announced the availability of the compounded replacement for Daraprim as a part of a larger corporate program, "Imprimis Cares," to make "novel and customizable medicines available to physicians and patients ... at accessible prices." Imprimis is now offering its compounded, orally taken formulations of pyrimethamine and leucovorin beginning at US$99 for a 100-count bottle, essentially a dollar a dose.
On November 23, 2015, Turing announced that the company would not reduce the list price of Daraprim, but said it planned instead to negotiate volume discounts of up to 50% for hospitals. Turing said it was not as important to cut the list price as to reduce the cost to hospitals, where most patients get their initial treatment. The company pledged that no patient needing Daraprim would ever be denied access. Infectious disease specialists and patient advocates, including Tim Horn of the Treatment Action Group and Carlos del Rio of the HIV Medicine Association, said Turing's actions were insufficient, given that patients initially treated for days at a hospital typically have to continue the treatment for weeks or months after leaving.
In November 2015, an investor group led by Shkreli acquired a majority stake in KaloBios Pharmaceuticals, Inc. (NASDAQ: KBIO), a biopharmaceutical company based in South San Francisco, California. Shkreli was named CEO of the company and also planned to continue in the role of CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals. After his December 2015 arrest, KaloBios Pharmaceuticals terminated him as CEO. On 29 December KaloBios filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. This followed NASDAQ delisting its shares, and the resignation of two directors.
On December 17, 2015, Shkreli was arrested by the FBI after a federal indictment in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York was filed, charging him with securities fraud. The charges were filed after an investigation into his tenure at MSMB Capital Management and Retrophin. He was accused of running a Ponzi-like scheme. A United States Department of Justice press release said, "As alleged, Martin Shkreli engaged in multiple schemes to ensnare investors through a web of lies and deceit." In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Shkreli said that he was targeted by law enforcement for his price hikes of the drug Daraprim and his flamboyant personality.
In his nationally syndicated column, political commentator Robert Reich suggested that what Shkreli "did wrong" was being more audacious while "playing the same game many others are playing on Wall Street."
In early 2016, Shkrel retained criminal defense attorney Benjamin Brafman to defend him.
Testimony before Congress
Shkreli was subpoenaed to appear before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of the U.S. House of Representatives to answer questions about the Daraprim price increase. Shkreli's efforts to quash the subpoena were unsuccessful.
On February 4, 2016, Shkreli appeared before the House committee, along with Nancy Retzlaff, the Chief Commercial Officer of Turing, and Howard B. Schiller, the interim CEO of Valeant. Retzlaff answered questions on Turing's finances and commercial decision making around commercial cost, while Shkreli followed advice from his counsel to exercise his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination by refusing to answer most questions, some of which related to personal issues like his Wu-Tang album. Later the same day, Shkreli sent a Twitter message reading, "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government."
Shkreli is a League of Legends player who goes by the name "Imagine Cerebral" and began expressing interest in purchasing an eSports team in 2014. In May, Enemy eSports announced that it had rejected a US$1.2 million offer from Shkreli. Eventually, he founded his own team, Odyssey eSports, and aimed to qualify for the 2015 North American League of Legends Challenger Series. The team lost to Cloud9 Tempest in the qualifying tournament and failed to qualify. In August, Odyssey merged with Imagine, with Shkreli becoming chairman of the team. During the merger, the team acquired the Dota 2 team Leviathan.
In November 2015, Shkreli began livestreaming on YouTube showing him playing games such as League of Legends and chess, as well as offering financial advice. Shkreli had previously streamed on the website Twitch but switched to YouTube after his account was banned from Twitch for unknown reasons. Shkreli received a phone call from the FBI on the day of his arrest live while streaming. When Shkreli was arraigned in December and released on bail, he continued streaming from his apartment.
Shkreli had a contract with Collect Records and has offered to bail out Bobby Shmurda.
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