Theranos’s board member James “Mad Dog” Mattis, a four-star basic and the previous secretary of protection, served among the many firm’s impeccably credentialed supporters — however testifying in Elizabeth Holmes’s trial on Wednesday, he resembled nothing a lot as a nattily-dressed grandfather. At one level, he appeared befuddled when the protection requested him if he remembered dialogue of high-throughput units.
When Mattis first met Theranos’ Holmes in 2011, he informed the court docket, she pricked his finger to present him an thought of the blood draw course of. And like a damsel in a fairy story, he fell underneath her spell. On the trial of the US v Elizabeth Holmes, he stated he was “taken” with the Theranos machine. Now “younger Elizabeth,” as Mattis addressed her in an e mail, faces 10 counts of wire fraud and two of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Mattis’ testimony on Wednesday was probably the most damning of the trial up to now. He portrayed Holmes as firmly in command of Theranos, even telling board members what to debate with the press. He additionally appears to have been misled concerning the capabilities of the Theranos analyzer, referred to as Edison.
“I’m looking for a approach to make use of your machine on a swift ‘pilot mission’ or ‘proof of precept to expedite its entry to our forces,” Mattis wrote Holmes in October 2011, when he was the commander of US Central Command. In right this moment’s testimony, he stated he had wished to see a side-by-side comparability with current blood testing expertise. That by no means occurred.
The small measurement of the analyzer was notably interesting to him, he testified. Sick bays on ships have restricted room, distant areas make it exhausting to arrange labs, and the thought of having the ability to shortly and precisely run checks to triage wounded troopers was notably interesting. “I used to be a robust believer in getting this in theater so it may stand and ship,” he stated.
Mattis additionally described Holmes as “sharp, articulate, dedicated” and stated she was “aggressive” about making an attempt to work with the Division of Protection. On the time, she didn’t say that Theranos didn’t have the sources to do that, nor did she point out the business launch.
To Mattis’ data, the Theranos analyzer was by no means deployed in clandestine operations, on army helicopters, or wherever else within the army. It is a specific downside for Holmes’ protection, as she informed buyers Theranos units have been being deployed in Afghanistan.
After retiring from the army, Mattis visited the Theranos headquarters in late 2013. There he noticed the Theranos analyzer — and didn’t see the commercially-available gear that Erika Cheung and Surekha Gangakhedkar testified Theranos was utilizing for many of its checks.
Holmes invited him to hitch the Theranos board to assist her construct company tradition — his administration expertise could be useful, she informed him. “It was fairly breathtaking what she was doing,” he stated. As a board member, Holmes was not simply his main supply of data on Theranos’ tech, she was his sole supply of data, he stated.
Mattis invested $85,000 into Theranos when he joined the board, a major quantity for “somebody who has been in authorities for 40 years,” he stated, smiling barely.
At board conferences, Holmes was the first presenter. Her co-defendant, Sunny Balwani, who’s being tried individually, generally gave monetary forecasts, however “Ms. Holmes was in cost,” Mattis stated. There have been board conferences the place Balwani wasn’t even current, he stated.
This testimony is, naturally, an issue for the protection, which has been making an attempt to shift blame onto Balwani, amongst others. But it surely’s in line with media profiles of Holmes in that interval, which introduced her as being in full management of the corporate.
Holmes’ media protection was launched immediately right this moment. First up was a Wall Street Journal article that claimed the Theranos units have been “sooner, cheaper and extra correct than the standard strategies and require solely microscopic blood volumes, not vial after vial of the stuff.” That was in line with Mattis’ understanding of the expertise on the time, he stated. The article was additionally featured in a board assembly.
It wasn’t till later that Mattis realized just a few checks have been truly run on the Theranos machine. If he’d identified that third get together units have been getting used for many checks, that “would have tempered my enthusiasm considerably,” he stated.
Mattis additionally spoke to Roger Parloff for his Fortune article — and earlier than doing so, he requested Holmes for steering about what to say. Parloff’s article claimed that Theranos “doesn’t purchase any analyzers from third events,” which was not true. However the declare was in line with what Mattis understood on the time, he informed the court docket. He additionally obtained instructions a few New Yorker article: he was to not talk about how the tech labored.
Later, a Theranos lawyer emailed Mattis to inform him to not speak to John Carreyrou, who was reporting his blockbuster story about Theranos; within the e mail, Carreyrou’s forthcoming story was described as defaming the corporate and exposing commerce secrets and techniques.
After the story got here out, the board of administrators was rebranded because the board of counselors. A slide from that assembly was proven to jurors — and the one a part of it that wasn’t redacted have been the phrases “responsibility of loyalty.”
That didn’t cease one other board member, Richard Kovacevich, former head of Wells Fargo, from emailing Holmes and the remainder of the board with questions. “So when blood is withdrawn in venous tubes, do I perceive accurately that the checks are performed on lab-like gear and never Edison and people are despatched to CLIA for testing whereas Edison is simply getting used for the FDA checks?” Kovacevich wrote.
Holmes replied that Theranos was transitioning between regulatory requirements, and Mattis stated he understood that Carryerou had primarily “caught [the company] in mid-stride.” Holmes didn’t inform the board that third-party checks have been used as a result of Edison didn’t work for every part. “I assumed all alongside that we have been doing it on Theranos’ gear,” he testified.
However after some “surprises, disappointing surprises,” Mattis stated he started to query if Edison truly labored. “There got here a time after I didn’t know what to consider about Theranos anymore,” he stated. He resigned as a member of the board in late 2016, as a result of he understood he was going to be nominated because the Secretary of Protection.
Damaging as his testimony was, it additionally appeared that Mattis was simply confused. He wasn’t solely certain the place he’d met Holmes for the primary time, although he knew it was earlier than or after a speech in San Francisco. He additionally didn’t keep in mind he’d purchased inventory choices within the firm — although the protection displayed the paperwork exhibiting he did. When requested how a lot he made a 12 months as a board member, Mattis stated $50,000; paperwork launched by the protection revealed he’d truly made $150,000 a 12 months.
However when the protection tried to get him to say that Holmes by no means informed him the tech was prepared, Mattis pushed again. Holmes had informed him the tech was able to deploy within the area for a side-by-side comparability with current blood checks, he insisted.
“I assumed it will be greater than a handful of checks,” Mattis stated, “or it will be ineffective to us.”