Was Elizabeth Holmes’s Sentence Fair?
Last Friday, Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced to 135 months for her role as Theranos’ founder and CEO, in making numerous misrepresentations to potential investors about Theranos’s financial condition and its prospects.
Attorney Lauren Scardella, who practices criminal defense law, points out that “the 135 month sentence fits well within the sentencing guidelines for the crimes she was convicted of.”
The tech culture of Silicon Valley honors money. It’s that simple. While pundits might claim that Holmes’s sentence was justified by the potential harm she put Theranos’s end users in, this case and conviction were all about Holmes having defrauded famous investors for close to one billion dollars.
And, as far as that goes, good for her, as she did a service to the investment community, That a 19-year-old Stanford dropout could defraud some of the world’s most accomplished investors because they were blinded by both FOMO and her Steve Jobs-ian persona shows how deeply flawed Silicon Valley was and is today. Investors often need to do much better due diligence on deals and have the courage to pass even where everyone else is running after the deal.
That’s all I really have to say about the sentence at the moment. I expect that Holmes will not need to surrender herself in April, as the appeal process should be lengthy, and Judge Davila will afford her the luxury far too few convicted and sentenced women have – not to have to give birth in prison.
Is AirBnB Doomed?
I wrote about this recently, assuming that the issue would die down in social circles, but it hasn’t. More and more people are talking about the fact that if AirBnB was ever a good deal, it no longer is one for the consumer. Prices have gone way up, users are often being charged outrageous fees, and the experience isn’t what it once was.
Attorney Eric Purchase reminds us that AirBnB is always a buyer-be-aware equation:
“When you stay at a hotel, you don’t really need to read the fine print for your stay. You pay a nightly fee to stay there, and that’s generally it. With an AirBnB, it can be a very different deal and you might find yourself liable for much more because of the terms you agreed to.”
That’s the real issue today with AirBnB – people just aren’t aware of what they’re signing on for. Imagine spending $800 for a two-night stay somewhere, only $300 of which was the actual fee for the lodging. We’re seeing more and more of these stories all over the Internet, with people are sharing their literal receipts.
For me, what’s going to be interesting to watch is whether the AirBnB brand can withstand this amount of tarnish on something that was once so shiny. Personally, I doubt it. I think that between often really lousy accommodations, too many shady property owners, and price-and-fee gouging, the AirBnB era is more than likely in our rear-view mirror.
A Colorado Nightmare.
Yet another in an endless series of senseless serial killings, the Club Q tragedy, mercifully, had a hero.
What was interesting here is the light shed on the mass murderer in a CBS News interview with his father. This 20-minute look into a part of the background of the shooter also provides a troubling look into society. Yet this disturbing interview leaves us with more questions than we had, including, as Attorney Nancianne Aydelotte, points out, “How desensitized we have become to all of the violence we see on our collective screens.”
This particular tragedy had a hero, Richard M. Fierro, who acted quickly and used his military training to take down the shooter. Without Fierro’s actions, the end result in Colorado Springs would have been significantly worse.
Again, the lingering question is whether public and private spaces will feel ever again feel safe to everyone. With each one of these tragedies, the collective sense that things might not get better builds upon itself. The law has a role in inspiring public safety; whether the law is failing people or whether legislators are failing the law is an excellent quotation for debate.
The MSU felonies
This week gave us the legal result of a remarkably egregious college football brawl: 1 felony (felonious assault) and 6 misdemeanors (aggravated assault).
This series of assaults took place in the tunnel to the locker room, after the game, not on the football field, where we are at least used to seeing some conduct that crosses the line from normal game activity to on-field penalties. What we saw in the MSU-Michigan assaults was something Sparta fans are still trying to digest.
As Attorney Michael Epstein points out, “There is a line between what is acceptable conduct as part of the game and what is ultimately assault. It’s that simple. Prosecutors here saw clear behavior that crossed the line, which is why these charges have been brought against the Michigan State players.”
There is a slippery slope when player conduct gets so bad that authorities even have to consider filing charges. All sports – perhaps especially college sports – are supposed to be about a shared camaraderie and love for the game. Incidents such as this, where the legal process needs to become involved, show us that players, coaches, parents, and fans all need to reconsider the values of the game and why we play.
Whether these charges send a wider message to players remains to be seen. Even in the few short weeks since the incident, on-field college football conduct doesn’t seem to have improved at all.
Warriors Sued for FTX Role.
It was a busy week for the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who were sued for their role in promoting the imploded FTX crypto platform.
What’s important about this lawsuit is that it is one of what will be several FTX endorsement suits that seek compensation for claims by trusted sources.
As Attorney Krenar Camili points out, “An NBA team that gives a company – especially a startup – naming rights, might be making claims as to whether their fans should trust this company. When a team further promotes that company, courts could see this as being some kind of reputational assurance.”
This is where the problems begin for the Warriors. While the first couple of weeks of the post-FTX era focused on individual deep-pocketed celebrity endorsers such as Tom Brady and Naomi Osaka, an NBA team has an entirely different set of deep pockets.
From where I sit, I’m not sure why anyone would act upon anything that any individual or corporate endorser says. As someone who has always been intrigued by advertising, I understand its nature, which is inherently manipulative. Understanding it for what it is allows me to take even the most ardent endorsements with a large grain of salt.
Maybe we’ve entered an era where we pay far too much attention to what others are telling us to consume. This could very well end up being the position of the courts in these FTX endorsement lawsuits, with judges and juries deciding that we need to think for ourselves more and just because we see an arena named after a brand doesn’t mean we need to use what they sell.
Until next week, be well!
About Aron Solomon
A Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer, Aron Solomon, JD, is the Chief Legal Analyst for Esquire Digital and 24-7 Abogados. He has taught entrepreneurship at McGill University and the University of Pennsylvania, and was elected to Fastcase 50, recognizing the top 50 legal innovators in the world. Aron has been featured in Forbes, CBS News, CNBC, USA Today, ESPN, TechCrunch, The Hill, BuzzFeed, Fortune, Venture Beat, The Independent, Fortune China, Yahoo!, ABA Journal, Law.com, The Boston Globe, NewsBreak, and many other leading publications.