FTC asks federal court to hold Martin Shkreli in contempt

Mia Gindis, Opinions Editor

The Federal Trade Commission requested a federal court to hold pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli in contempt for allegedly flouting a recent investigation into his business affairs and defaulting on a payment he owed for prior misconduct.

Shkreli failed to sit for an interview and turn over documents, according to a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Jan. 20. This was part of an ongoing investigation into whether he has violated the pharmaceutical industry ban by forming and operating his new company, “Druglike, Inc.”

Shkreli co-founded Druglike in July 2022. It is described as “a Web3 drug discovery software platform” that seeks to build a decentralized computing network to help anyone contribute to early-stage drug discovery projects.

The FTC also noted that Shkreli was ordered to make a $64.6 million payment by March 6, 2022 as a symbolic refund of the money he earned inflating drug prices. However, Shkreli has since “paid nothing toward the judgment, and has made no efforts to comply with this provision of the Order.”

“Martin Shkreli’s failure to comply with the court’s order demonstrates a clear disregard for the law,” Holly Vedova, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a press release. “The FTC will not hesitate to deploy the full scope of its authorities to enable a comprehensive investigation into any potential misconduct.”

A convicted business executive and Baruch College alumnus, Shkreli was released from federal prison last May after completing three years of an initial seven-year sentence. Shkreli was found guilty of securities fraud for mismanaging money at investment funds Elea Capital, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare in 2017.

He gained national notoriety two years prior, during his term as CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, for raising the price of life-saving medications used by AIDS patients from $13.50 per pill to $750.

Shkreli’s conduct inspired multiple publications to deem him the “most hated man in America.” More recently, last year the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York banned Shkreli from participating in the pharmaceutical industry for life, as noted within a 134-page ruling decided in a separate FTC antitrust case against him.

The legally binding order prompted a new investigation into Shkreli’s conduct in October 2022, when public records pointed to his renewed participation in the pharmaceutical industry.

Brianne Murphy, an attorney for Shkreli, referred to the noncompliance issue as a misunderstanding that “can get resolved relatively quickly once we get additional information and context to them.”

Murphy added that Druglike does not contradict the court order because the newly established business is primarily “a software company, rather than a drug company.”

The FTC asserted its argument in the court filing by pointing to the website for the “Martin Shkreli Inu” token, a cryptocurrency token to be employed by Druglike. The website said that the company aims to include the “democratizing access to the early stages of pharmaceutical drug discovery, funding of future pharmaceuticals, and intellectual property rights,” which seemingly contradicts Murphy’s point.

The government agency first invoked the order’s access-to-information provisions and order’s compliance reporting in October 2022, according to a press release. Shkreli refused to acknowledge the agency’s requests for him to provide access to relevant documents and a compliance report. He also refused to sit for an interview on multiple occasions.

The FTC also offered Shkreli the alternative option to provide written responses and documents to support these responses by Nov. 4, 2022. Shkreli immediately responded to the request via email to acknowledge his receipt and state an intent to respond, according to a court filing.

As of Jan. 30, Shkreli has not provided the FTC with the material it requested, including the supplemental compliance report, in the initial letter sent on Oct. 13.

Editor’s Note: Martin Shkreli, who is mentioned in this article, was a former business editor of The Ticker.