Drug exec Shkreli, lawmakers clash ahead of congressional hearing

Thu Jan 21, 2016 5:12pm EST
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By Nate Raymond and David Ingram

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli was on a collision course with Congress on Thursday as lawmakers warned he could be prosecuted for contempt if he does not appear next week for a hearing about drug prices.

A lawyer for Shkreli informed the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform of his intent not to answer questions and asked that he be excused from appearing, committee chairman Jason Chaffetz wrote in the letter dated Wednesday.

The plan to remain silent contrasts with Shkreli's prolific use of social media, where he has been outspoken on Twitter and livestream video even after his indictment last month on criminal charges of securities fraud.

The Oversight Committee subpoenaed Shkreli to appear on Tuesday to discuss his decision as chief executive of Turing Pharmaceuticals to raise the price of a life-saving medicine, Daraprim, by more than 5,000 percent.

Shkreli, 32, has said he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. On Twitter, he told followers it was "disgusting and insulting" for lawmakers to try to subvert that right.

The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case "to be a witness against himself."

The dispute appeared likely to end in one of two ways: with Shkreli appearing in Washington on Tuesday to invoke that right, or with Shkreli staying home in New York, prompting the committee to vote to hold him in contempt and setting off a potential criminal prosecution.

Shkreli resigned as chief executive officer of Turing last month after his arrest on the fraud charges. Turing had acquired Daraprim, a 62-year-old drug, and caused a public furor when it drastically increased the price.   Continued...

Martin Shkreli (C), chief executive officer of Turing Pharmaceuticals and KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc, departs the U.S. Federal Court in New York December 17, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson