John Carreyrou‘s Bad Blood outlines the story of fraud and deception at Theranos, the Silicon Valley company claiming to revolutionize the medical industry with its blood-testing technology. Theranos, as Carreyrou meticulously explains, was a grand vision wrapped up in a web of blatant lies and oppressive management. The company continued to deceive its investors and partners for over a decade, with the help of top lawyers, powerful connections and a highly effective sales pitch driven by its founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes. Holmes and her boyfriend / COO Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani created an organization where physics could not be allowed to get in the way of what they desired, and the only executives permitted to thrive were sycophants that agreed to play along with their charade.
Carreyrou’s tale, despite being the work of an investigative journalist, feels like an insider’s account. His numerous interviews with courageous former employees were undoubtedly responsible for the story’s personal touch. Today, both Holmes and Balwani are being investigated by Federal authorities and Theranos is defunct. But Carreyrou’s book reads like a nail-biting suspense – or would have, if we hadn’t already known the ending.
Bad Blood leaves us with several questions to chew on. How could our society be so broken that a fraudulent company with little substance could be permitted to thrive – reaching a net worth of $9 billion – without anyone raising alarm bells? Perhaps this simply goes to show that many, if not most of us, are susceptible to groupthink, willing to take manufactured points of view for granted as long as others are willing to stand by them – a troubling idea. Even more troubling is the role of the lawyers in the fiasco – the reality is that the law is not on the side of truth and justice, but on the side of whoever has the most money.