Turing exec claims she was sexually assaulted by company co-founder

Edwin Urrutia

Martin Shkreli, who became notorious for his defense of what many saw as price gouging by Turing Pharmaceuticals, is not the only founder of that company being accused of abhorrent behavior. A federal complaint filed by Turing Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Retzlaff accuses Shkreli's friend and Turing co-founder Edwin Urrutia of sexually attacking her in a hotel room when they were in Washington to testify to Congress over the company’s pricing tactics.

The accusations are made in a complaint filed Monday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, reports the New York Times, which obtained the document. According to the Times, Retzlaff said Urrutia resigned after an internal company investigation but said the company then retaliated against her.

The company and Urrutia declined to comment to the newspaper, as did Retzlaff.

Turing exploded into the national consciousness last fall after its then 32-year-old CEO Shkreli took to Twitter, disparaging anyone who questioned him about the company’s 5,000%-plus price hike on the drug Daraprim, taken by many HIV patients. He resigned after being indictment on securities charges tied to his alleged misdeeds as a hedge fund manager and exed at another pharma company he had founded.  

But Shkreli and Retzlaff appeared before Congress which grilled them about how the company arrived at its drug pricing decisions. He pleaded his 5th amendment right against self incrimination and sat and smirked in front of his inquisitors. When he left the hearing room, he sent out a Tweet calling them “imbeciles.”

It was Retzlaff, who as chief commercial officer, was in the hot seat defending Turing’s decisions during several Congressional inquiries. She said the price hike was justified because of the value of the drug which treats a rare by sometimes fatal infection.

It was during one of those trips to Washington that Retzlaff said Urrutia tried to kiss her at a hotel bar then followed her to her room, blocking her from getting off the elevator and insisting she join him in his room for a drink. Once in, the complaint alleges he threw her on the bed, groped and kissed her and tried to pull off her tights. She said she fought him off and ran out of the room.

According to the complaint, Urrutia’s advances continued at company functions until a co-worker of Retzlaff reported them to the company, which investigated. It says after Urrutia resigned “in lieu of termination,” some company officials retaliated against Retzlaff. It claims she was in contention to be CEO and had been told she would receive restricted shares in the company but after the resignation was informed she was not eligible for either, the Times reports.

Shkreli, who is accused in the complaint of poisoning the atmosphere at the company with sexist and vulgar behavior, did talk to the newspaper. He denied there was sexism at Turing. He lauded Retzlaff’s abilities and acknowledged she had been considered for the CEO role. He denied she had been retaliated against, saying she didn’t get the position because she fell short of expectations.

Retzlaff's attorney, Douglas H. Wigdor, did comment to the Times in an email: “Amongst the cast of characters running Turing, it is not hard to fathom that our client was genuinely fearful of reprisal, victim blaming, and being denied the C.E.O. position for which she was eminently qualified--all of which are now happening but for which we will utilize all of our resources to hold those responsible accountable,” he said.  

- read the New York Times story 

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