(Editor's note: Just as we were about to send out our daily report today, news hit the wires that the judge in Martin Shkreli's case has allowed him to make the trip to DC for a rescheduled session on February 4. We'll provide an update later today.)
Martin Shkreli really, really, really didn't want to head down to Washington, DC, to testify in front of angry lawmakers on Tuesday. And now Mother Nature has provided a temporary reprieve from his demand performance.
Still digging out from a weekend blizzard, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is postponing its scheduled hearing on the drug-pricing controversy, Bloomberg reports, and that means Shkreli will have more time to argue that he shouldn't be made to appear and be scolded by lawmakers as he plans to cite his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination.
On Friday, Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, rejected Shkreli's latest objections to appearing, which now reportedly include news of a Federal Trade Commission probe of possible antitrust violations surrounding Shkreli's notorious decision to hike a drug price at Turing Pharmaceuticals by more than 5000%.
Shkreli's high-profile snark attacks on lawmakers, turning to Twitter to mock and troll anyone who questions his actions or motivation, is keeping a bright spotlight on the issue of rising drug prices in the U.S. The Daraprim case--jacking the price of a 62-year-old generic from $13.50 a pill to $750--has outraged a viral mob at online sites like Gawker and Reddit and thrust the small-time biotech exec into a central role in the brewing showdown between Congress and the pharma industry.
Getting Shkreli under the bright lights of a House committee hearing--even just to plead the Fifth--is guaranteed to keep stirring that controversial pot.
Noting Shkreli's intention to plead his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination and refuse to testify, Chaffetz once again shot down the biotech exec's positions in a letter to Arnold & Porter attorney Baruch Weiss, who's been representing him--for now, at least. The subpoena to appear still stands, he added, leaving the House with the power to cite Shkreli for contempt if he's a no-show on Tuesday.
Shkreli, under federal indictment for unrelated securities fraud, has been insisting that the terms of his bail arrangement prevent him from leaving New York and going to DC.
No, replied Chaffetz, Sam Waksal at ImClone was ordered to appear in 2002 after he was indicted, and found no trouble in getting permission from a judge to head on down to DC the very next day to plead the Fifth in his notorious insider trading case.
"In contrast to the urgency with which Mr. Waksal's attorneys secured an amendment to their client's travel restriction, you appear to have taken no such action," Chaffetz chided Weiss. "(Y)ou were advised more than one week ago that the Committee routinely requires witnesses to assert their Fifth Amendment rights in person."
Shkreli took to Twitter late Friday to respond to Chaffetz. "You want me to go to DC to to just say "I plead the 5th"? For your entertainment?"
As for Weiss's "uncertain status" as an attorney for the volatile Shkreli, Chaffetz dismissed that out of hand.
Weiss followed up with a note to U.S. District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto asking for "guidance" on the subpoena. "Shkreli's attendance in person under these circumstances would only serve to subject Mr. Shkreli to embarrassment and obloquy without serving any of the legitimate tasks of Congress," wrote the attorney. And if the judge rules that Shkreli can't leave New York, Weiss could use that to quash the subpoena and avoid a contempt charge.
Shkreli may also have played another stall tactic with Congress. Reuters reports that Weiss noted in his letter that Shkreli is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for antitrust activities. Weiss said that Shkreli would cooperate with the committee if he was granted immunity, but that wouldn't happen before Tuesday.
That argument also isn't flying with lawmakers.
"We honestly have no idea what he will do on Tuesday, but his problems are going from bad to worse very quickly," Rep. Elijah Cummings (MD) said in a statement to The Hill.
Cummings now has more time to see what Shkreli will come up with.