Ex-Theranos executive Sunny Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison

Balwani Sunny, the former executive of the now-defunct blood testing firm Theranos, has been sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison for his role in the company and his romantic partnership with ex-partner Elizabeth Holmes.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Holmes, who played a part in one of Silicon Valley’s largest controversies, was handed a sentence slightly more lengthy than that.

Balwani, who served as Theranos’s chief operating officer for six years, was found guilty in July of all 12 charges related to defrauding Theranos investors and patients. His sentencing took place on 18 November. On the other hand, Holmes, who was convicted of defrauding investors and sentenced to over 11 years, was acquitted of charges related to patients.

His attorneys pursued a range of four to 10 months, whereas government prosecutors portrayed him as a heartless and ambitious individual, seeking a sentence of 15 years, which was greater than the term received by Balwani.

Throughout his 13-week trial, Balwani’s lawyers painted him as a tireless executive who invested his own $15 million into Theranos, where he put his money “is” his mouth.

The court argued that Balwani, who oversaw the Theranos lab at one point, stated in shared text messages, “All my decisions have been too.” Prosecutors argued that in shared text messages, Balwani stated, “I am responsible for everything at Theranos,” along with Holmes, steering the company.

The lawyers requested that Balwani only receive probation and no prison time, arguing that his personal investment losses constituted sufficient punishment for Theranos. They also argued that he did not seek media attention or “fame” like Holmes did, as he was the head of the company.

Prosecutors urged a 15-year sentence and restitution of $803 million, arguing that Balwani had shown recklessness or conscious disregard for the risk of serious bodily injury or death by providing inaccurate blood tests through Theranos.

Jeffrey Schenk, the prosecutor, stated that Balwani is the perpetrator of fraud, closing in on his arguments. Mr. Balwani is not a victim.

Rupert Murdoch and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, prominent supporters, lured Theranos by offering a groundbreaking technology that had the potential to conduct numerous health tests using only a tiny amount of blood. Holmes established Theranos after leaving Stanford at the age of 19, which represents the most recent significant event in the lengthy and eventful history of Theranos, including the conviction of Balwani.

Despite being cautioned about the inaccuracy of the blood tests they had been promoting for years, Holmes and Balwani persisted in raising funds from investors and implementing the technology in select Walgreens stores.

“An authentic departure from ethical business practices” and “they were falsehoods”, according to Balwani’s financial records prepared by Edward Davila, the US district judge, were “not only forecasts”.

In 2018, the corporation disintegrated following the fraud charges against Holmes and Balwani. Deficiencies and inaccuracies in its fundamental technology were uncovered in 2015 through the Wall Street Journal’s investigation, leading to the downfall of Theranos. At a certain juncture, Theranos had a valuation exceeding $9bn.

The outcomes of both trials have been seen as harbingers for a new era in Silicon Valley, where companies can no longer make false promises and ride unchecked hype with secure funding.