SEPTEMBER 8, 2021
- Prosecutors have released some of Elizabeth Holmes’ texts with former Theranos COO Ramesh Balwani.
- The texts shed light on their past relationship and efforts to manage crises threatening Theranos.
- A law professor explains how both the defense and prosecution might try to frame the texts.
“All my love.” “Missing you infinite.”
So went one text exchange between Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes and Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, who was her former boyfriend as well as the former president and COO of Theranos.
Prosecutors in Holmes’ highly anticipated fraud trial released six pages of text correspondence from the former couple late Tuesday that offer a glimpse into their past romantic relationship. They also provide a window into their apparent scramble to go on the offense against those who threatened to air the company’s alleged misrepresentations about its tests.
All of the messages released in the filing were sent between May and July of 2015, not long before Theranos’ catastrophic implosion.
- “You are breeze in desert for me. My water. And ocean,” Holmes wrote in one series of texts to Balwani.
- “Madly in love with you and your strength,” Holmes texted Balwani later that evening.
- “CCed on you [sic] terrible negative review from someone from Newark lab probably bugs lab. Working on getting that removed,” Balwani said in a text. “I saw it. We’ll get them,” Holmes responded. (Theranos used to have a lab in Newark, California.)
- “Feel like the luckiest person in the world BC I have you,” Holmes texted later that day.
- “We will come up with good response to the questions and we can turn this around,” Balwani said in another message.
- “Need to get ahead of all of it. Out of al [sic] challenges are greatest opportunities,” Holmes texted. “Once and for all transcend all the bs,” she added later.
- “All my love,” Balwani wrote. “Missing you infinite,” Holmes replied.
The release of the texts could throw a wrench in Holmes’ plans to accuse Balwani of abuse as part of her defense strategy. Previous court filings suggest that Holmes will say Balwani, who will face his own fraud trial in January, controlled her actions in a way that affected her state of mind at the time she allegedly made the misrepresentations.
“The texts paint a picture of a couple who are loving, value each other’s thoughts and are mutually engaged in a common pursuit,” said Cheryl Bader, a law professor at Fordham Law School and former Assistant US Attorney. “I think the jury will read these texts as evidence of a co-equal partnership in a close and loving relationship.”
Bader predicted some ways in which both the prosecution and the defense may try to use the text messages to their advantage during the trial.
“These texts are a strategic planning thread peppered with expressions of affection and mutual admiration that the prosecution will argue undermines Holmes’ claim that that she was being controlled and abused,” Bader added. “The defense will caution the jury not to read too much into a text thread and may argue that if anything, it shows how devoted, dependent, and controlled Holmes was by Balwani.”
In other texts from the filing, Holmes and Balwani appear to discuss strategies to undercut concerns raised by former Theranos employees, including whistleblowers Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung.
They also talk over how they’ll handle reporting from John Carreyrou that Theranos tests didn’t work as advertised. Months after the texts were sent, Carreyrou published a blockbuster investigation saying Theranos’ devices could only perform a fraction of the tests for which they were touted.