“On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question” is pretty much all Martin Shkreli said during his appearance before the House Committee on Oversight earlier Thursday, and he said it over and over and over. In fact, he answered only two questions: one to confirm that a committee member had pronounced his name correctly (yes), and one to confirm he was listening (also yes). Thanks to a subpoena, Shkreli was there to testify before the committee about drug pricing; while he was CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals, the company increased the price of Daraprim, which is used to treat infections in HIV patients, from $13 a pill to $750 a pill, leading to hardships for patients, very large profits for his company, and a public hazing that left Shkreli slightly less well-liked than, say, Osama bin Laden.
Shkreli resigned from Turing in December after he was arrested for fraud over a hedge fund he managed from 2009 to 2014, but despite committee members’ promises that they wouldn’t discuss anything related to his indictment, he pleaded the Fifth on all subjects. He also smirked his way through the hearing, which his lawyer attributed to “nervous energy” (you’re in way over your head, dude) but is more likely due to the fact that Shkreli is a humongous nightmare of a person.
Several committee members attempted to question Shkreli anyway. Representative Jason Chaffetz, the committee chair, asked him probing questions such as “What do you say to that single pregnant woman who might have AIDS, no income — she needs Daraprim in order to survive?” and “Do you think you’ve done anything wrong?” Representative Trey Gowdy tried to coax Shkreli into a response, assuring him he wouldn’t be forced to answer incriminating questions. When Shkreli again refused, Gowdy declared himself to be “vexed.”
Representative Elijah Cummings didn’t even bother with questions, instead pleading with Shkreli to “make a difference in so many people’s lives.” You can imagine how well that went. At the end of the session, Representative John Mica moved to hold him in contempt of court — “I don’t think I’ve ever seen the committee treated with such contempt” were his exact words — but Chaffetz declined.
After less than ten minutes of questioning, Shkreli was dismissed. But don’t worry, guys — it’s all part of a social experiment.