As It Happens

Martin Shkreli, 'most hated man in America,' arrested for fraud

Shkreli is the entrepreneur who bought up a little-used, but life-saving, drug this fall and jacked up the price 55-fold. But federal authorities didn't arrest him over price-gouging. Instead, they're charging him with cooking the books in an unrelated business venture.
Martin Shkreli is escorted by law enforcement agents in New York Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015, after being taken into custody following a securities probe. (Craig Ruttle/Associated Press)

Martin Shkreli  — the so-called "most hated man in America" — was arrested Thursday at his New York apartment and charged with securities fraud.

He was defiant in a very colourful way.- Noah Bookbinder, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics

Shkreli is the entrepreneur who bought up a little-used, but life-saving, drug this fall and jacked up the price 55-fold. But federal authorities didn't arrest him over price-gouging. Instead, they're charging him with cooking the books in an unrelated business venture. Prosecutors called it a "Ponzi-like scheme."

The charges come after years of controversy over the 32-year-old entrepreneur's behaviour. In 2012, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics called for an investigation into Shkreli's dealings.

Martin Shkreli is belted into an awaiting car after being taken into custody following a securities probe, on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2015 in New York. (Craig Ruttle/AP)

"It was certainly gratifying to see [the arrest]," the organization's executive director, Noah Bookbinder, tells As It Happens host Carol Off. "It's good to see to someone who seems to be making something of a career of playing fast-and-loose with the rules be held accountable."

Federal prosecutors say that Shkreli lost money in his hedge fund, then dipped into the assets of another company he was running, Retrophin, to pay back his investors. He says none of the allegations have been proven in court. On Thursday, Shkreli was released on a $5 million bond. 

AIDS activists and others, carrying an image of Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli in a makeshift cat litter pan, are asked to leave the lobby of a building in New York, during a protest highlighting pharmaceutical drug pricing on Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015. (Craig Ruttle/AP)

The charges were unrelated to the move that prompted Donald Trump to call Shkreli "a spoiled brat" this fall. That's when he raised the price Daraprim — a drug used to treat an infection that can cause brain damage in babies and people with AIDS — to $750 from $13.50 per pill.

Bookbinder says the drug-pricing scandal no doubt brought added scrutiny to Shkreli's business dealings — scrutiny the entrepreneur almost invited by his outrageous response.

"He was so unapologetic about it. He was even boastful," Bookbinder says. "He was defiant in a very colourful way."

Not only did Shkreli renege on a promise to lower the cost of Daraprim, he said he regretted not pricing it even higher. He was also a shameless self-promoter, live-streaming himself at work and calling himself "the world's most eligible bachelor."

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