By Christie Smythe, Bloomberg News
Evan Greebel, a lawyer who once advised Martin Shkreli, went on trial this week on charges that he helped Shkreli defraud the company he founded, Retrophin Inc.
Greebel’s first hurdle is to distance himself from Shkreli.
In opening statements on Friday, Greebel’s lawyer told jurors that the 44-year-old father of three and Shkreli, a former biotech executive notorious for aggressive drug-pricing tactics, were as “different as two people can be.” Greebel was by no means Shkreli’s “right-hand man,” defense lawyer Reed Brodsky told jurors at the trial in Brooklyn, New York.
Greebel “lived a quiet life,” Brodsky said, while Shkreli was “cultivating this public personality and persona, blogging and tweeting.”
It’s no mystery why Greebel, a former corporate lawyer, would want to separate himself from Shkreli, who is in jail after his conviction for lying to hedge fund investors (although jurors weren’t told about that). Greebel wants to show that Shkreli lied to him as well, and that Greebel had no reason to believe he was being asked to do anything wrong.
“Mr. Shkreli is kind of a contradiction,” Brodsky said, arguing that Shkreli managed to con people with his “image” of success, brilliant ideas and “photographic memory.”
Greebel, once a partner at Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and Kaye Scholer LLP, is accused of helping Shkreli steal $11 million from Retrophin to repay investors who lost money in two hedge funds Shkreli managed by back-dating documents and crafting “sham” settlement and consulting agreements. He is also charged with helping Shkreli illegally maintain control of shares in Retrophin to manipulate their price.
In the government’s opening statement, Assistant U.S. Attorney David Kessler said Greebel started working for Shkreli’s companies around 2011 and used his legal talents to aid Shkreli’s fraud. Kessler said Greebel wanted to please Shkreli to make millions of dollars in fees for his firm.
“Agreeing to help the CEO of a company steal from the company is a crime,” Kessler said. “Agreeing to help illegally control the stock market is a crime.”
Greebel’s demeanor in court couldn’t have differed more from Shkreli’s. He sat quietly by his defense team, smiling briefly but otherwise remaining expressionless. On trial in the same courtroom, Shkreli, 34, smirked and scowled through much of his case. He was convicted in August of three of eight fraud counts and will be sentenced in January.
Banned from Twitter for violating its policies against harassment, Shkreli was jailed last month after posting a $5,000 bounty to his Facebook page for a strand of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s hair. Although he later said the post was “a joke,” prosecutors said he posed a threat to public safety, and his bail was revoked.
Shkreli was ousted from Retrophin in late 2014, and then went on to found Turing Pharmaceuticals AG, now named Vyera Pharmaceuticals LLC. Greebel was also fired from his representation of Retrophin. While at Turing, Shkreli sparked widespread outrage by raising the price of AIDS-related drug Daraprim by 5,000 percent.
The case is U.S. v. Shkreli, 15-cr-00637, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York (Brooklyn).