NEW YORK– Martin Shkreli smirked as Rep. Elijah Cummings berated the former drug CEO for operating a Ponzi-like scheme.
“It’s not funny Mr. Shkreli,” Cummings snapped at a House Oversight Committee hearing on Thursday. “People are dying and they’re getting sicker and sicker.”
Shkreli’s smirk remained.
Cummings said Turing Pharmaceuticals, which Shkreli used to run, had been dealing in “blood money.” By hiking up the price of Daraprim, a toxoplasmosis treatment used by AIDS patients, by 5000%, Cummings said that Shkreli was taking advantage of its customers.
“Like a Ponzi scheme, it appears that Turing might be using profits from Daraprim to invest in new drugs that it would then jack up prices for,” Cummings said.
Cummings also lashed out at the former CEO for his lavish spending, off the back of the hiked-up drug prices. He cited Shkreli’s famous $2 million purchase of the Wu-Tang Clan’s single pressing of its new album, “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin.”
“My constituents. They don’t buy Wu-Tang Clan albums,” Cummings said. “They live paycheck to paycheck.”
Shkreli did not give testimony.
“On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question,” Shkreli said repeatedly repeatedly. ”
Representative Trey Gowdy tried to get an answer out of Shkreli and briefly succeeded when he asked him about the pronunciation of his name. He then asked several questions about the Wu-Tang Clan album.
Shrkeli rolled his eyes during questioning, fiddling with his pencil and refusing to look at the committee members.
He was eventually excused from the hearing.
Nancy Retzlaff, Turing’s chief commercial officer, testified at the hearing that the hiked prices didn’t affect customers, most of whom paid a penny per pill.
In January, Shkreli tweeted a photo of a subpoena he received to appear before the House oversight committee. He questioned whether to attend the hearing on “developments in the prescription drug market.”
Shkreli also opted to plead the Fifth after receiving a subpoena from the Senate Committee on Aging.
Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins lambasted Shkreli in January for refusing to testify. The congresswoman tweeted that Shkreli’s actions were essentially impeding Congress’ investigation. But Shkreli defended his constitutional right to plead the Fifth.
Shkreli is also facing securities fraud charges involving Retrophin, another biotech company that he ran several years ago. He recently replaced his attorney in that case and is next scheduled to appear in federal court on May 3.
By David Goldman and Ahiza Garcia