Shkreli's 5th Amendment hall pass rejected for congressional drug pricing hearing

Martin Shkreli

Pharma bro Martin Shkreli is requesting a hall pass to get out of testifying at a congressional hearing on drug pricing next week after receiving a subpoena ordering him to appear. But principals involved the price-fighting crusade including ringleader Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) aren't letting Shkreli off the hook that easily.

Baruch Weiss, a lawyer representing Shkreli, asked the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to excuse his client from the hearing, saying that Shkreli would invoke the Fifth Amendment given his recent indictment on securities fraud charges. But House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said that Shkreli can't use that excuse and that his "failure to appear and comply with the subpoena" may run afoul of the law, Chaffetz said in a letter to Weiss.

The House committee could decide to hear Shkreli's testimony in executive session or immunize his testimony, Chaffetz said, two strategies that would skirt the former Turing CEO's attempts to get out of testifying. And Shkreli could be held in contempt and slapped with financial penalties and jail time if he doesn't appear, Cummings said in a statement.

Cummings pointed out that Shkreli has yet to get permission to travel to Washington for the hearing under his current bail requirements in his securities fraud case. And neither the ex-CEO nor his legal team has taken any steps to tell the judge in his pending case about the committee's subpoena. "If he plans on trying to use his own intentional inaction as some kind of bogus excuse for not showing up at Tuesday's hearing, people will see right through such a juvenile tactic," Cummings said.

Shkreli, who came under fire after Turing bought an old antiparasitic treatment last year and jacked up the price 5,000%, has aired a few responses to the recent turn of events via Twitter. "Haven't decided yet" whether to attend the hearing, Shkreli tweeted on Wednesday. "Should I?"

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings

Shkreli also had some fighting words for the congressional committee. "Your attempt to subvert my constitutional right to the 5th amendment are disgusting & insulting to all Americans," Shkreli tweeted on Thursday, without saying whether he'd make an appearance at the hearing next week.

In the meantime, companies including Turing and Valeant ($VRX) are trying to comply with the committee's calls for information regarding price hikes for certain meds. Valeant's recently appointed interim CEO, Howard Schiller, and its chief commercial officer, Nancy Retzlaff, are set to testify at next week's hearing. Valeant came under fire last year for raising the prices for its heart meds Isuprel and Nitropress by 200% and 500%, respectively.

Turing is also responding to pushback on drug pricing. The company "has worked continuously to provide Congressional staff with briefings and written information, answer questions, and assure them that a Turing representative would participate in the hearing," Turing told Bloomberg in an emailed statement.

- here's Chaffetz's letter (PDF)
- read Cummings' statement
- get the Bloomberg story

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