Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos Inc., and husband Billy Evans leave federal court in San Jose, California, on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images
SAN JOSE, CALIF – In the first dramatic showdown at the Elizabeth Holmes’ trial, defense attorney Lance Wade aggressively questioned the company’s former lab director about his credibility.
“Did you offer lab tests that you knew at the time were inaccurate or unreliable?” Wade asked Adam Rosendorff inside the courtroom on Thursday.
“No, I ordered the laboratory to discontinue testing and I raised concerns to management,” Rosendorff replied.
“And you were never told by Ms. Holmes to report an inaccurate result, correct?” Wade asked, to which Rosendorff agreed.
Wade, raising his voice, also repeatedly pressed Rosendorff about whether his testimony was scripted with federal prosecutors and agents during the several meetings they had.
Rosendorff worked at Theranos from 2013 to 2014. He testified he initially believed the company would become “the next Apple.” Rosendorff said he applied to work there after reading a biography about Apple’s founder, Steve Jobs.
“The whole excitement around Steve Jobs was very compelling to me,” Rosendorff said. “I wanted to make a more global impact on healthcare and I thought that joining a diagnostics company would help me do that.”
Wade held up Walter Isaacson’s biography on Jobs, which Rosendorff testified that he read. Wade asked him about why he was surprised by Theranos’ intense secrecy and public relations.
“You knew that one of the things that was important to Apple and its success was very effective PR and marketing, correct?” Wade asked. “My personal opinion was that it was Apple’s understanding of people’s every day needs and tailoring its technology to its needs,” Rosendorff said.
Wade also asked Rosendorff if he recalled “from the book the intense secrecy that Mr. Jobs imposed on R&D projects” at Apple, such as reviewing new technology in a password protected room.
“This isn’t the time for a book report,” U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila interrupted.
The fiery cross examination came on the heels of newly unsealed documents that reveal notes from federal agents who interviewed two Theranos insiders about Holmes’ relationship with her top executive and romantic partner Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
Nicole Canas, a receptionist and administrator at Theranos from 2010 to 2011, told investigators last year that Holmes and Balwani “worked as a unit. Theranos was about what Holmes and Balwani wanted.”
“The interactions between Holmes and Balwani were those of equals,” the interview notes said. “Canas could not recall Holmes and Balwani contradicting each other.”
Part of Holmes’ defense may be to argue that she was under Balwani’s control. As revealed in previously unsealed documents, Holmes may testify that Balwani was controlling and manipulating her. Balwani denies the allegations.
Interview notes from Paige Williams, a former personal assistant for Holmes from 2015 to 2018, reveal a similar takes on their relationship.
“Williams did not see shouting between Balwani and Holmes,” according to the interview. “Williams did not see any cruel behavior, whether verbal or physical, between Balwani and Holmes. Balwani very much seemed to have admiration for Holmes.”
Federal agents wrote that Williams “did not see arguments at the residence either. If anything, Williams described the residence ‘much more relaxed’ than the office.” The interview notes said that Holmes and Balwani wanted to “create a relaxed and zen feeling in their house…”
Williams recalled Valentine’s Day in 2014 when both Holmes and Balwani asked Williams to purchase and surprise the other with flowers at the home they shared. “Holmes asked Williams to buy an Hermes Apple watch band for Balwani,” the notes said. Williams told federal agents that Balwani would often buy Holmes flowers for anniversaries and birthdays.
Holmes and Balwani are facing a dozen counts of criminal wire fraud and conspiracy. Their blood-testing startup, Theranos, came crashing down in 2018 following a Wall Street Journal investigation which exposed inaccuracy issues with the blood-tests and dubious business practices.
Williams said that when she started at Theranos “Holmes traveled by chartered planes. But “after the Wall Street Journal article, there was a shift to commercial planes.”
Cross examination of Rosendorff continues Wednesday.