In January, Tyler Shultz and Erika Cheung told their stories at a session hosted by Stanford University’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society. They talked about how disorienting and frightening their experiences at the company were after they realized the touted blood testing system didn’t work.
Cheung said she doubted herself at first. She had a feeling “that there was something wrong going on here, but maybe there is something I’m not seeing. You’re surrounded by so many talented people… Everyone else was being very nonchalant about what was going on, just going through the motions and the grind of every day, knowing there were so many problems.”
More in this clip. A video of the entire session is available on YouTube.
Shultz agreed that problems were ignored by others. But he didn’t question what he was seeing.
“The culture mostly brushed off,” he said. “Some people made jokes about it. I never doubted I was right.”
Figuring out what do about wasn’t easy, they both said. Cheung said she finally got help from a lawyer and contacted the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Never in my life would I have anticipated that I was going to have to report a company to a regulatory agency,” she said. “There is nothing in life that prepares you for that experience.”
Schultz said that if he could go back in time and give himself advice, he would say “Don’t do it…You’re going to pay a huge price for doing this. It’s going to come out anyway,” he said. “Knowing myself, I would have ignored that advice.”
Ultimately, if you go down the right channels, you actually have a lot of protection as a whistle blower, he said.
Cheung said she had to say something.
“Frankly. I’m not one of those people who can keep quiet. I’m just going to tell you — This is wrong.”
In 2015, the Wall Street Journal reported that the much-touted Theranos blood testing system did not work. The company was fined $500,000 fine for misleading investors and has been indicted on fraud charges. Carreyrou’s stories are now a book, a podcast, the subject of this movie and a Hollywood film is reportedly in the work and the Theranos scandal is the tale is seen as a cautionary tale about the craziness of the start-up culture. The pitch for the popular podcast on the case offers this.
Money. Romance. Tragedy. Deception. The story of Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos is an unbelievable tale of ambition and fame gone terribly wrong. How did the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire lose it all in the blink of an eye?
- HBO: The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley Clip
- More here from WBUR.‘The Inventor’: Elizabeth Holmes’ Theranos Scam That Rocked Silicon Valley