SAN JOSE, CALIFORNIA – In the first dramatic showdown in the Elizabeth Holmes trial, defense attorney Lance Wade aggressively questioned the company’s former lab director about his credibility.
“Did you offer laboratory tests that you then knew were inaccurate or unreliable?” Wade asked Adam Rosendorff in the courtroom on Thursday.
“No, I have instructed the lab to stop testing and I have raised concerns about management,” Rosendorff replied.
“And you were never instructed by Ms. Holmes to report an inaccurate result, right?” asked Wade, to which Rosendorff agreed.
Wade raised his voice and also repeatedly urged Rosendorff whether his testimony was written during the various meetings with federal prosecutors and agents.
Rosendorff worked at Theranos from 2013 to 2014. He testified that he initially believed the company would become “the next Apple”. Rosendorff said he applied there after reading a biography about Apple founder Steve Jobs.
“The whole excitement about Steve Jobs was very convincing to me,” said Rosendorff. “I wanted to have a more global impact on healthcare and I thought joining a diagnostics company would help me do that.”
Wade held up Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs, which Rosendorff said he had read. Wade asked him why he was surprised by Theranos’ intense secrecy and public relations.
“You knew one of the things that was important to Apple and its success was very effective PR and marketing, right?” asked Wade. “My personal opinion was that it was Apple’s understanding of people’s daily needs and adapting its technology to its needs,” said Rosendorff.
Wade also asked Rosendorff if he remembered “from the book the strict secrecy that Mr. Jobs imposed on R&D projects at Apple”, such as checking new technologies in a password-protected room.
“This is not the time for a book report,” interrupted US District Court Judge Edward Davila.
The fiery cross-examination followed freshly unsealed documents revealing notes from federal agents interviewing two Theranos insiders about Holmes’ relationship with their top manager and romantic partner, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani.
Nicole Canas, a receptionist and administrator at Theranos from 2010 to 2011, told investigators last year that Holmes and Balwani “worked as a unit. Theranos was about what Holmes and Balwani wanted ”.
“The interactions between Holmes and Balwani were on an equal footing,” said the interview notes. “Canas couldn’t remember Holmes and Balwani contradicting each other.”
Part of Holmes’ defense could be to argue that it was under Balwani’s control. As indicated by previously unsealed documents, Holmes could testify that Balwani controlled and tampered with them. Balwani denies the allegations.
Interview notes from Paige Williams, a former Holmes personal assistant from 2015-2018, reveal a similar take on their relationship.
“Williams saw no shouting between Balwani and Holmes,” said the interview. “Williams saw no cruel behavior, verbal or physical, between Balwani and Holmes. Balwani seemed to admire Holmes very much.”
Federal agents wrote that Williams “also saw no arguments at the residence. If anything, Williams described the residence as” much more relaxed “than the office.” The interview notes state that Holmes and Balwani “want to create a relaxed and zen feeling in their home …”
Williams remembered Valentine’s Day in 2016 when Holmes and Balwani asked Williams to buy the other one and surprise them with flowers in their common house. “Holmes asked Williams to buy a Hermes Apple Watch band for Balwani,” the notes read. Williams told federal agents that Balwani Holmes often buys for anniversaries and birthdays.
Holmes and Balwani are faced with dozens of criminal wire fraud and conspiracy. Her blood testing start-up, Theranos, collapsed in 2018 following an investigation by the Wall Street Journal that uncovered inaccuracies in blood tests and dubious business practices.
Williams said that when she started in Theranos, “Holmes traveled by chartered airplanes. But “according to the Wall Street Journal article, there has been a shift to commercial airplanes.”
Cross-examination of Rosendorff will continue on Wednesday.