Yahoo – AFP, 4 February 2016
Entrepreneur and pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli listens during a
congressional hearing on February 4, 2016 in Washington (AFP Photo/
Washington (AFP) - Pharmaceutical "bad boy" Martin Shkreli invoked his constitutional right against self-incrimination Thursday in a brief, contentious appearance before a US congressional panel.
Shkreli, called to testify in a House oversight hearing on prescription drug prices, repeatedly declined to explain steep drug price increases he imposed as former chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals.
Shkreli was asked what he would tell sick patients who can no longer afford the drug and whether he thinks he has done anything wrong.
"On the advice of counsel, I invoke the Fifth Amendment and respectfully decline to answer your question," Shkreli told the lawmakers in each case.
Shkreli wore a smirk and looked away from lawmakers much of the time, sparking bipartisan outrage.
"It's not funny," said Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, the senior Democrat on the committee. "People are dying and they are getting sicker."
Representative John Duncan, a Tennessee Republican and a veteran lawmaker first elected in 1988, said in all his years in Congress: "I've never seen an individual behave with such arrogance."
Shkreli, 32, vaulted to notoriety in September 2015 after he raised the price of Daraprim from $13.50 to $750 per pill. Daraprim is a decades-old drug used to treat toxoplasmosis, a potentially fatal infection, and it is also used by HIV patients.
In December, Shkreli was arrested and indicted for securities fraud for allegedly orchestrating a Ponzi scheme-like conspiracy at two hedge funds and another firm, prior to joining Turing.
He is accused of lying to investors, moved money between investments to cover losses in other vehicles and siphoned off cash for personal expenses. Shkreli resigned as CEO of Turing the day after the indictment.
Shkreli's attorney, Benjamin Brafman, a prominent criminal defense lawyer, told reporters after the appearance that it was a "frustrating morning for us."
"Mr. Shkreli would like nothing more than to answer the committee's questions," Brafman said. However, invoking the Fifth Amendment was "appropriate" given his indictment on the fraud charge.
"I would also tell you Mr. Shkreli did not intend to show any disrespect for any members of the committee, listened intently," he said.
"Some of what you saw was nervous energy by an individual who very much would like to explain what happened, but has agreed to listen to his lawyer," said Brafman, whose high-profile clients have included Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the International Monetary Fund chief who resigned amid a sexual assault scandal.
Shkreli stayed mum as television cameras followed him from the Capitol Hill hearing, but quickly took to Twitter after that to blast lawmakers.
"Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government," he tweeted.
Martin Shkreli (2nd R), CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical, is brought out of 26
Federal Plaza by law enforcement officials after being arrested for securities
fraud on December 17, 2015 in New York City (AFP Photo/Andrew Burton)