Theranos co-founder returns empty-handed from fraud hearing amid legal blowback

The venture capitalist at the heart of the alleged $100m fraud case against Theranos has chosen to shut down for the day before testifying at a House committee.

Leonardo Vinciquerra, the chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment, withdrew at the last minute Wednesday from a congressional hearing on improper surveillance tactics used by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the aftermath of the 2016 election. Vinciquerra is scheduled to testify on Thursday.

In a statement from his lawyer, Vinciquerra denied any improper conduct and said he decided to postpone the hearing “out of respect for the dedication and ongoing hard work of the Department of Justice, the FBI and its agents across the country”.

He also called allegations that his name was included in a government search warrant application “baseless”. The implication was that he had been put on notice by the FBI that he was not to appear in court or advise his lawyer of his legal rights before assisting with its operation in the aftermath of the election.

Such calls are often an indication of probable cause. So far, prosecutors have not identified Vinciquerra by name, but have made references to the allegation.

The disappearance of Vinciquerra, and the subsequent decision to adjourn the hearing on the grounds of his health, prompted speculation on Capitol Hill that he was unwilling to discuss claims that he tried to obstruct a federal investigation into Theranos, the California-based blood-testing company co-founded by Holmes that collapsed in August following a series of revelations about its mechanics and apparent abilities.

Vinciquerra was one of seven people named in FBI documents that were published by the Wall Street Journal in August. The journalist Greg Farrell, who first identified the names, wrote: “Investors who gave millions to Theranos, some of them reportedly lured by company officials’ glowing marketing, were targeted with subpoenas in recent months.”

The five-year investigation led to initial charges against three ex-Theranos employees. They have pleaded not guilty.

Sally Fouts, a longtime Silicon Valley lawyer who represents Vinciquerra, said he was not in trouble with the FBI for giving investigators incorrect information in response to their original search warrants last spring.

According to Fouts, Vinciquerra was advised to reply in writing rather than just without knowing the answer to basic questions about the circumstances of the warrants.

What Theranos and the Wall Street Journal revealed about blood-testing Read more

The lawyer said: “Our confidential witness did provide us with some questions to which he felt he did not have sufficient information. But he categorically denies that he gave the FBI any false statements.”

The disappearance followed public and private complaints by Vinciquerra to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which – he said – had contacted him as a result of the publication of information about the case.

“Many of the FTC charges are related to alleged false statements. The FBI told me to respond to their documents. I responded with ‘I have no comments’,” Fouts said.

The Wall Street Journal said at the time it did not identify Vinciquerra by name because of privacy concerns.

It could not be determined why Vinciquerra abruptly pulled out of the House subcommittee hearing. Although he took a leave of absence in August, he has continued to work at Sony Pictures for a number of months.

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