We are re-reading Bad Blood, Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (published by Alfred A. Knopf, 2018 – Buy a copy and read along). This week we tackle two related chapters.  Over the course of the book to date, we have seen secrets and lies (hence the title), intellectual theft, poor diagnostics and careers being destroyed.  This week we add a suicide to the hot mess that is Theranos.

Chapter 11 – Lighting a Fuisz

The context of this chapter is the lawsuit between Theranos and the Fuisz Pharma. The crux of the story is that Theranos is suing Fuisz Pharma over what they see as a patent theft.  Bottom line, Fuisz and his sons feel that the allegations are false Theranos has hired a well known and very aggressive law firm. The pressure generated by the lawsuit is horrendous. Theranos’s lawyer, David Bois, typically charges nearly $1,000 USD an hour; however, has struck a deal to be paid in stock, a fact that gives Theranos an edge in the litigation process. Over the chapter, Fuisz Pharma has to find cheaper representation while Theranos can continue with very high priced attorneys. The pressure of the lawsuit on everyone involved is palpable.  

As part of his research, Fuisz, discovers that Ian Gibbons is listed on many of Theranos’s patents (Elizabeth is always listed as the lead on the patents).  Fuisz believes Elizabeth has added her name to the patents and that Gibbons is the true inventor. If true, this would invalidate the patents. Given this discovery, Fuisz has his attorneys subpoena Ian Gibbons while Theranos tries to resist the subpoena.

Generally, this type of corporate lawsuit is not a search for a win-win solution, but rather a platform for retribution. Being right does not always equate to winning. It is said that the party with the deepest pockets will win. I have been on the wrong side of that equation before and it is crushing to know you are right but lack the resources to win. The deal to pay Bois in stock deepens Theranos’s pockets.  However, even with deep pockets, litigation Is never pleasant.

Chapter 12 Ian Gibbons

Gibbons was one of the first experienced scientists hired by Elizabeth.  Gibbons by this point in the story has been ground down by the Theranos experience.  Gibbons started his Theranos journey as a leader but after several demotions due to his insistence that things should be done correctly and telling the truth has been demoted several times. As we have seen, any time the truth contradicted Elizabeth, the teller has had to bear the consequences. At one point Elizabeth fired Ian only to have Sunny intervene and hire him back as a consultant.  One can infer this was to control access to Gibbons. The grinding pressure of the Theranos environment and the subpoena caused Gibbons mental anguish. In the end, he committed suicide rather than to be deposed.

Theranos is the complete anthesis of what an agile environment is supposed to be.  The values and principles of the Agile Manifesto put people at the center of value delivery.  When people and organizations wander away from concepts like transparency and collaboration and substitute lies and silos, bad things happen. In this case, because of all of the actions a man is dead, and at the very least the Theranos shenanigans contributed. 

Previous Entries:
Week 1 – Approach and Introduction – https://bit.ly/2J1pY2t
Week 2 — A Purposeful Life and Gluebot – https://bit.ly/2RZANGh
Week 3 — Apple Envy, Goodbye East Paly and Childhood Neighbors – https://bit.ly/2zbOTeO
Week 4 — A Reflection –https://bit.ly/2RA6AfT
Week 5 — Sunny – https://bit.ly/2AZ5tRq
Week 6 – The miniLab –  https://bit.ly/2rfmwJh
Week 7 – Wellness Play – https://bit.ly/2rqUYk6
Week 8 – Who is LTC Shoemaker – https://bit.ly/2GkbWv0