SAN JOSE, Calif. (KRON) — What did Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani say to each other when they thought no one else was listening?
Text messages made public recently by prosecutors expose private exchanges between the two executives from 2015, a time when their biotech company, Theranos, was coming under fire from whistleblowers and medical professionals.
Within 180 texts exchanged, there were many romantic messages. Balwani was both COO of Theranos and Holmes’ boyfriend.
“You are breeze in desert for me. My water and ocean,” Holmes texted Balwani.
Beyond the love notes, there are also texts about seeking to silence medical professionals and Theranos employees who were raising red flags because Theranos’ mini blood testing devices were giving false test results.
“We’ll get them,” Holmes texted Balwani on May 13, 2015 after a lab gave her company a bad review.
A criminal fraud trial for Silicon Valley’s former “golden girl” is underway.
Prosecutors likely made the text messages public mid-trial in an attempt to prove that Holmes and Balwani conspired together, said former San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Michele Hagan. The texts could also be used as evidence in front of the jury.
During opening statements last week, her defense team told the jury that Holmes was on a quest to revolutionize healthcare.
“Trying your hardest and coming up short is not a crime,” defense attorney Lance Wade told the jury.
The trial’s outcome hinges on proving Holmes’ intentions, showing what Holmes knew, and pinpointing when she knew it, Hagan said.
In one text exchange, Theranos’ CEO and COO were trying to figure out which of their employees was leaking information to the Wall Street Journal.
Balwani wrote to Holmes, “I am narrowing this down in CLIA. Down to 5 people. Will nail this m****r f****r.”
Holmes wrote, “If Tyler thinking abt George fyi at right time. Need to get ahead of all of it.”
Balwani responded, “So easy to knock legs off of.”
Ex-Theranos employee Tyler Shultz was a whistleblower. He is the grandson of George Shultz, a former secretary of state who served on Theranos’ board. Tyler was booted from the company after he raised a red flag about blood tests failing quality-control standards.
In addition to Tyler, the duo suspected more Theranos employees, including whistleblower Erika Cheung, were also leaking company secrets.
“…knocking the legs off one at a time is the best way,” Balwani wrote.
Cheung and Tyler are anticipated to testify against their former boss for Holmes’ trial.
The text messages also include Holmes and Balwani privately venting about health professionals from blood labs.
“Terrible negative review from someone from Newark lab,” Balwani wrote.
“I saw it. We’ll get them,” Holmes responded.
Holmes became America’s youngest self-made billionaire after dropping out of Stanford University and founding Theranos. The company was once valued at $9 billion.
“The scheme brought her fame, it brought her honor, and it brought her adoration,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Leach told the jury.
Theranos imploded after investigative stories by the Wall Street Journal were published in 2015. A federal investigation followed, leading to Holmes and Balwani being charged with 10 counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit.
After her dramatic rise and fall as a young Silicon Valley CEO, Holmes walked away with nothing, her defense attorney told the jury.
Holmes’ trial resumed Tuesday with more testimony from prosecutors’ first witness, So Han Spivey. Spivey was Theranos’ financial manager.
Spivey testified that Theranos was hemorrhaging money at a time when Holmes was portraying herself as a successful CEO to investors.
Prosecutors said when Holmes was faced with failure and her company was in danger of going broke, she chose to lie and deceive investors to keep her company from falling apart.
Leach told the jury, “This is a case about fraud, about lying and cheating to get money. It’s a crime on Main Street, and it’s a crime in Silicon Valley.”