CEO Elizabeth Holmes, hailed as 'next Steve Jobs,' charged with 'massive fraud,' accused of failed feminism

Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, is charged with “massive fraud.” (Photo: Getty Images)
Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO of Theranos, is charged with “massive fraud.” (Photo: Getty Images)

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos, a revolutionary blood analysis company, has been charged with “massive fraud” and is drawing additional criticism for being a failed feminist.

According to USA Today, Holmes, 34, hailed as the “next Steve Jobs” by Inc. for her innovation and black turtleneck uniform, raised more than $700 million between 2013 and 2015 while allegedly “deceiving investors by making it appear as if Theranos had successfully developed a commercially ready portable blood analyzer” that could perform many lab tests cheaply, using only a small blood sample. Holmes founded Theranos in 2003 at age 19 after dropping out of Stanford University.

The Theranos testing machine was called “Edison” — named after the American inventor — and its details were secretive. After the Wall Street Journal ran a story in 2015 that quoted employees voicing doubts about the legitimacy of Edison and reported that Theranos only used its all-star technology for a small number of tests (using routine blood testing for the majority), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched an investigation, resulting in Theranos’s blood testing license being revoked.

To settle Wednesday’s charges, Holmes will pay a $500,000 penalty, is banned from holding an executive role at a public company for a period of 10 years, and must return nearly 19 million shares. The SEC also charged former Theranos President Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who is Holmes’s ex-boyfriend.

Holmes is taking a beating on social media, where many blasted the CEO — once ranked by Forbes as the youngest female self-made billionaire — as an example of white privilege for her so-called lenient punishment and as a failed female CEO, of which there are only 32 in America.

The scrutiny mirrors that of Gina Haspel, a longtime CIA employee who, on Tuesday, was named the agency’s first female director. While Haspel’s promotion was largely celebrated as a win for women, her victory was overshadowed by her controversial past overseeing the detainment and torture of terrorist suspects.

Holmes may have broken the glass ceiling, but she doesn’t represent women’s achievement.

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