Elizabeth Holmes, the former chief executive of Theranos, has testified that an alleged sexual assault by her former romantic and business partner influenced her when she misled investors.
Holmes has pleaded not guilty to duping investors and patients into believing that her company’s finger-prick blood testing technology was legitimate and revolutionary when it actually did not work.
In her fourth day in the witness box on Monday, responding to questions from her own attorneys, Holmes claimed that Romesh Balwani’s controlling behaviour undermined her ability to communicate honestly to investors.
Holmes, who is now 37, said her relationship with Balwani began when she was 18 after she dropped out of Stanford University – in part because she had been raped.
She said Balwani had tried to form her into his own idea of what was a good entrepreneur, insisting she only ate particular foods that would make her “pure” while having a “very disciplined and intense lifestyle”.
Throughout their romantic relationship Balwani allegedly forced Holmes to have sex when she did not want to and was verbally abusive.
Balwani has “categorically” denied these allegations in his own court filings, calling them “false and inflammatory”. His trial is being heard separately.
The jury selection process involved asking whether potential jurors had any knowledge of sexual abuse which could prejudice their appraisal of the trial.
Holmes’ cross-examination by the prosecution will begin on Tuesday.
The trial began in early September and will continue into December.
It is being seen as emblematic of more than just the apparent misdeeds of key staff at this one Silicon Valley medical technology firm but of the ‘fake-it-until-you-make-it’ culture among many other start-ups.
The scandal at the company was revealed in 2015 in a front-page story in the Wall Street Journal which claimed the company’s blood testing technology was so flawed Theranos was actually using equipment made by other businesses to carry out tests in its laboratories.
Three years later criminal charges were filed against Holmes and Balwani, her former boyfriend and the president and chief operating officer of Theranos, accusing them of fraud.