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Published On: Sat, Aug 5th, 2017

Will Martin Shkreli’s fraud conviction wipe the smirk off his face? | Arwa Mahdawi

Faced with a lawsuit and a criminal investigation, some people might have kept their head down and changed his behavior but not Shkreli

When even Donald Trump thinks you look like a spoiled brat, you know youve achieved something. Martin Shkreli possesses one of the most slappable faces in America and, over the last couple of years, he appears to have been doing his best to ensure everyone in America wants to slap it.

On Friday, a Brooklyn jury did just that, and found the 34-year-old entrepreneur guilty of securities fraud. He now faces up to 20 years in prison, but is likely to get much less.

In case youre not fully up to speed with how Shkreli, who is sometimes referred to as the most hated man in America, came to be sitting federal trial for fraud, a brief recap.

Shkreli was born to poor immigrant parents and worked his way into the highest echelons of corporate America. A precocious kid, he got a place at an elite New York high school then went on to set up a couple of hedge funds and, in 2011, a biotech company called Retrophin.

In 2014, the story starts to veer from American dream into capitalist American nightmare. Shkreli was ousted by the board of Retrophin. The following year Retrophin filed a lawsuit against its former CEO, claiming, among other things, that Shkreli had misused company funds and harassed a former employee and his family. According to testimony at the trial, he wrote the employees wife a letter saying: I hope to see you and your four children homeless I will do whatever I can to assure this.

Meanwhile, the US attorneys office started a criminal investigation into Shkreli.

Faced with a lawsuit and a criminal investigation, some people might have put their head down and toed the line. Not Shkreli.

In 2015, he founded another company: Turing Pharmaceuticals. He named it after Alan Turing, the genius British mathematician who was persecuted by the government for being gay suggesting that perhaps, just perhaps, Shkreli might have something of a martyr complex. Just a few months after Turings inception, it acquired the rights to a life-saving drug Daraprim and promptly raised the price of it by 5,500%. Outrage ensued, and Shkreli became the face of corporate greed in America.

Faced with a lawsuit, a criminal investigation, and newly-minted pariah status, some people might have attempted to rehabilitate their image. Not Shkreli.

Rather, Shkreli appeared to revel in his newfound infamy and was soon adding fuel to the fire. He trolled fans of the Wu-Tang Clan by buying the sole copy of one of their records for $2m. Then he got banned from Twitter for the targeted harassment of Lauren Duca, a journalist. Shkreli photoshopped a picture of himself cuddling Duca and made it his Twitter profile, superimposing the words til death do us part.

Harassing women. Shameless behavior on social media. A voracious thirst for the spotlight. An apparent disregard for basic propriety. Any of this remind you of someone? The president of the United States, perhaps? Shkreli is very much a younger, paler version of his idol, Trump. It seems apparent from Shkrelis behavior that he has modeled himself on the president, and is attempting to replicate the way in which Trump manufactures fame through a constant conveyor belt of controversy that makes irresistible content.

Sometimes, Shkreli imitates Trump to the letter. Take, for example, the way in which Shkreli seesaws between presenting himself as being persecuted by the elite and reveling in his status in the elite. Last week, for example, Shkreli wrote on Facebook: My case is a silly witch hunt perpetrated by self-serving prosecutors. Thankfully my amazing attorney sent them back to junior varsity where they belong. Drain the swamp. Drain the sewer that is the DoJ. MAGA.

Shkrelis post very clearly echoed a tweet Trump sent in July defending his son Donald Jr against accusations of Russian collusion: You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA.

All publicity is good publicity. Fame is a commodity that can be mined for fortune; it doesnt matter how you get it as long as you get it. You cant really punish someone like Shkreli by sending him to prison; thats just more fuel for a book or a movie about his life. No, you punish him by starving him of the oxygen of publicity.

But thats unlikely to happen. Shkreli is a pharma bro who astutely realized that modern society is afflicted with an addiction to entertainment. He diagnosed the condition and then he turned himself into a drug to help feed it. The media are hooked now, and its unlikely that this will be the last we hear about Shkreli.

In for comms director, Shkreli wrote on Facebook on Monday after news got out that Anthony Scaramucci had been fired. The way things are going, I wouldnt be surprised to see Trump appoint Shkreli his new communications director next week.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/aug/04/martin-shkreli-guilty-fraud

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Will Martin Shkreli’s fraud conviction wipe the smirk off his face? | Arwa Mahdawi