Elizabeth Holmes, the founder of Theranos and fabled female billionaire in an extremely short life, has claimed that she was abused in a lawsuit on Sunday. In the suit, she alleges that former boyfriend William Derella “embezzled $30m from her” and damaged her reputation “to the point of irreparable damage”. She’s looking for $US270m ($367m) in damages.
Holmes was found guilty last year of two felony counts of lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) about the veracity of the equipment that her company Theranos promised to bring to health care providers. The CEO is also fighting allegations of fraud by the SEC at a trial scheduled to begin in June.
Her legal woes have made her the hero of her enemies, a version of post-fame pill popping, trading fame for a more measured life, less craziness, and mostly the promotion of working women in high-powered positions.
According to her lawsuit, Derella, a consultant for the pharmaceutical company Celgene, got very good at the game of keeping files hidden from her.
Holmes said that her relationship with Derella began as a healthy one, involving being together throughout the day, and then “during a late night in May 2015, Derella began verbally and physically abusing her”.
“We had been close friends for over a decade. He encouraged me to move to California, where I could work out my ideas. He helped me overcome a childhood asthma problem. As time went on, he became physically affectionate toward me.”
Holmes said she left the relationship after six months, but that their break-up had a devastating effect on her. A week later, on 11 May 2015, Derella asked her to email him and alert him if she was about to go to bed without him. When she showed up at her house, she said, he asked if he could take her back. “He abused and despicably tortured me, in a manner that appears to be beyond comprehension for anyone.”
In the lawsuit, Holmes adds that she “endured horrible and unspeakable abuse. He sexually assaulted me on more than one occasion. He despicably abused me in other ways as well. He abused his physical force and power to force me to engage in sexual encounters in the context of all-night drinking binges or simply under the influence of his intoxicating psychotropic drugs.”
“Some people judge him by the things he says and does …” she writes, “And some just judge the outrageous statements he has made about me and how much my leadership of Theranos reflects badly on him. And my basic decency. But then some think of something like ‘I’m sorry you’re angry. I’m not fucking with you. I just want you to know that you’re loved.’ These are the words that came through to me after a night of abuse.”
In her first post-conviction interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes (after months of denying the charges against her), Holmes said that she was an “incredibly privileged young woman” and that she couldn’t expect to be misbehaving. “I chose the corner office before I had ever worked full time in the real world.”
Now, she is writing about the “dark” things that have happened in her life – or at least giving broad strokes of what is. In her role as a vlogger, a medium where either people or companies put forward the hard stuff, Holmes does not keep to herself. (She has over 500,000 followers on YouTube.)
“I’m here to share my side of the story,” she tells me. “I have learned over the last few years how much I am angry about my downfall and the entire case against me … I was blindsided by many things, but I will not use my lawyers’ time to address the negative things that others write about me in order to do better.”
The terms of Theranos’ bankruptcy agreement prohibit Holmes from naming names about her company and former partners, which she has not done. (Theranos calls its scandal a “misleading story”.)
She is still trying to live her life, according to the court documents.
“I try not to sweat the small stuff,” she writes, but, she says, “I am still working on being a better person, in