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Holmes, Balwani hoped to 'build the true American empire' at Theranos, text messages show

Exchanges illustrate a 'loving' relationship, as well as frustration over company problems

Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of Theranos, arrives at the federal courthouse in San Jose on Oct. 1, 2021. Courtesy Harika Maddala/Bay City News.

During the years that Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani worked together at Theranos, they exchanged thousands of text messages. Many of those were read out loud during the prosecutor's cross-examination of Holmes on Tuesday.

Holmes, Theranos' founder and CEO, is charged with 11 counts of criminal wire fraud based on allegedly false and misleading statements to investors, doctors and patients about the now-defunct company's blood-testing technology.

Holmes testified on Monday that she suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of Balwani, and that he and others had control over the operational and scientific details of the Palo Alto-based company's ultimately futile efforts to make its fingerstick blood-testing method work.

She also said, in response to questions from her attorney, that it was not until a scathing audit by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in January of 2016 that she realized the problems with both the Theranos lab and the man with whom she had spent the previous 11 years.

The texts on Tuesday told a more complicated story.

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Holmes agreed with prosecutor Robert Leach that many of the 12,000 texts admitted as an exhibit in the trial showed a "complementary and loving" relationship on both sides, as well as a "spiritual connection."

In one exchange Balwani texted, "Love you. I prayed from the bottom of my heart for you. I have never prayed with this intensity in my life for anything or anyone. You will shine."

Holmes responded with a smiley face and the words "my nirvana."

Choking back tears, Holmes said that the pair's mutual exchange of texts with the letters "hmfr" referred to an Arabic prayer meaning "this too is my God's glory."

She agreed with prosecutor Leach that the five years' worth of texts used the words "love" or "loving" over 700 times.

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The texts also show Balwani expressing frustration over problems he saw at Theranos, messages that the prosecutor characterized as Balwani being "open with" and "not deceiving" Holmes about issues. Holmes agreed.

In April 2015, Balwani, the texts show, pointed out the "need to get more assays on fingerstick," referring to the fact that the majority of lab tests that the company was administering in its Walgreens wellness centers were done through a traditional venous draw.

Holmes testified Tuesday that the company was never able to do more than 12 tests via the fingerstick method. In the same time frame, Balwani texted his concern that Holmes' public relations strategy amounted to "overexposure without solid substance."

In another exchange, Balwani texted that "we need to stop fighting fires by not starting fires," and listed a litany of problems ranging from the clinical to the company's call centers. Holmes again texted that she agreed.

Referring to their plans for the company's future once the problems were resolved, Balwani texted Holmes, "then let's build the true American empire. A monopoly. Our obligation to the USA."

Holmes texted back: "That's what we're doing."

Holmes admitted on cross-examination that there were times when she "gave Mr. Balwani directions on what to do" and times when she "told him what to do." She conceded that she was the one who "ended the relationship" and "asked him to leave" the company.

Asked whether "anything that happens in your company is your responsibility at the end of the day?" Holmes said, "That's how I felt, yes."

The trial will resume on Tuesday of next week.

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Holmes, Balwani hoped to 'build the true American empire' at Theranos, text messages show

Exchanges illustrate a 'loving' relationship, as well as frustration over company problems

by /

Uploaded: Wed, Dec 1, 2021, 11:17 am

During the years that Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani worked together at Theranos, they exchanged thousands of text messages. Many of those were read out loud during the prosecutor's cross-examination of Holmes on Tuesday.

Holmes, Theranos' founder and CEO, is charged with 11 counts of criminal wire fraud based on allegedly false and misleading statements to investors, doctors and patients about the now-defunct company's blood-testing technology.

Holmes testified on Monday that she suffered emotional and physical abuse at the hands of Balwani, and that he and others had control over the operational and scientific details of the Palo Alto-based company's ultimately futile efforts to make its fingerstick blood-testing method work.

She also said, in response to questions from her attorney, that it was not until a scathing audit by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in January of 2016 that she realized the problems with both the Theranos lab and the man with whom she had spent the previous 11 years.

The texts on Tuesday told a more complicated story.

Holmes agreed with prosecutor Robert Leach that many of the 12,000 texts admitted as an exhibit in the trial showed a "complementary and loving" relationship on both sides, as well as a "spiritual connection."

In one exchange Balwani texted, "Love you. I prayed from the bottom of my heart for you. I have never prayed with this intensity in my life for anything or anyone. You will shine."

Holmes responded with a smiley face and the words "my nirvana."

Choking back tears, Holmes said that the pair's mutual exchange of texts with the letters "hmfr" referred to an Arabic prayer meaning "this too is my God's glory."

She agreed with prosecutor Leach that the five years' worth of texts used the words "love" or "loving" over 700 times.

The texts also show Balwani expressing frustration over problems he saw at Theranos, messages that the prosecutor characterized as Balwani being "open with" and "not deceiving" Holmes about issues. Holmes agreed.

In April 2015, Balwani, the texts show, pointed out the "need to get more assays on fingerstick," referring to the fact that the majority of lab tests that the company was administering in its Walgreens wellness centers were done through a traditional venous draw.

Holmes testified Tuesday that the company was never able to do more than 12 tests via the fingerstick method. In the same time frame, Balwani texted his concern that Holmes' public relations strategy amounted to "overexposure without solid substance."

In another exchange, Balwani texted that "we need to stop fighting fires by not starting fires," and listed a litany of problems ranging from the clinical to the company's call centers. Holmes again texted that she agreed.

Referring to their plans for the company's future once the problems were resolved, Balwani texted Holmes, "then let's build the true American empire. A monopoly. Our obligation to the USA."

Holmes texted back: "That's what we're doing."

Holmes admitted on cross-examination that there were times when she "gave Mr. Balwani directions on what to do" and times when she "told him what to do." She conceded that she was the one who "ended the relationship" and "asked him to leave" the company.

Asked whether "anything that happens in your company is your responsibility at the end of the day?" Holmes said, "That's how I felt, yes."

The trial will resume on Tuesday of next week.

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