File this under “Mr. Shkreli Goes to Washington.”
In a tersely worded letter to Martin Shkreli’s attorney, the chairman of a House committee wrote that the infamous “pharma bro” must comply with a subpoena recently issued to him to testify at a hearing next week on drug pricing.
“The committee rejects the notion that Mr. Shkreli is unable to comply with the subpoena and will move to enforce the subpoena,” Rep Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, wrote to Baruch Weiss of the Arnold & Porter law firm in Washington, D.C.
The letter was sent after Weiss wrote his own letter earlier today to the committee to request that Shkreli be excused from testifying. Weiss cited a few reasons. One was that Shkreli planned to invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself, according to the letter from Chaffetz.
Weiss was referring to Shkreli’s recent arrest for securities fraud, which was unrelated to his tenure as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shkreli’s $5 million bail agreement prevents him from traveling outside the New York City area.
The attorney also pointed to a probe into Turing’s pricing practices by the US Federal Trade Commission, which a source familiar with the matter confirmed. The FTC is examining how Turing thwarts generic competition to Daraprim, a life-saving medicine that it purchased last summer and then boosted the price from $13.50 a tablet to $750. We first reported the maneuver, which you can read about here.
Chaffetz, however, was clearly annoyed at the request to excuse Shkreli.
He compared the situation to another high-profile kerfuffle involving Sam Waksal, the former chief executive at ImClone Systems, who was imprisoned for insider trading. One day after his arrest in 2002 and a travel restriction was imposed as part of a $10 million bail agreement, Waksal obtained judicial permission to travel to Washington to testify at a committee hearing.
“In contrast to the urgency with which Mr. Waksal’s attorneys secured an amendment to their client’s travel restriction, you appear to have taken no action,” Chaffetz wrote.
The lawmaker may also have been peeved at a recent tweet from Shkreli. Yesterday, Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the committee, publicly chastised Shkreli for not making plans to testify. Shkreli responded on Twitter by writing that “your attempt(s) to subvert my constitutional right to the 5th amendment are disgusting and insulting to all Americans.”
In his letter, Chaffetz also pointedly noted the subpoena was issued on Jan. 12, but that no one responded. And he added the committee had informed Weiss that witnesses are “routinely” expected to invoke their Fifth Amendment rights in person. Moreover, Chaffetz wrote that the committee had sent a letter on Jan. 20 as a reminder that Shkreli was expected to testify next Tuesday.
This “begs the question: what have you done since receiving the letter on Jan. 20 to ensure that Mr. Shkreli does not violate his bond agreement when he travels to Washington for next week’s hearing?”
Whether judicial permission will be sought is unclear. Despite the looming snowstorm in the New York area, there is still time for Shkreli and his attorney to pursue this avenue and avoid a bigger fight with the committee. We asked Weiss, whose status as Shkreli’s attorney remains unclear, for comment and will pass along any reply.