Former drug executive Martin Shkreli, under indictment on fraud charges, laughs off questions and invokes the Fifth Amendment at a U.S. congressional hearing on drug prices, citing the advice of his attorney. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Former drug executive Martin Shkreli laughed off questions about drug prices and tweeted that lawmakers were imbeciles on Thursday, when he appeared at a U.S. congressional hearing against his will. Shkreli, 32, sparked outrage last year among patients, medical societies and Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton after his company, Turing Pharmaceuticals, raised the price of 62-year-old Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent to $750 a pill. The lifesaving medicine, used to treat a parasitic infection, once sold for $1 a pill. At a hearing of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Shkreli repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which says no person shall be compelled in any criminal case "to be a witness against himself." Wearing a sport jacket and collared shirt rather than his usual T-shirt, he responded to questions by laughing, twirling a pencil and yawning. Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican, asked Shkreli what he would tell a single, pregnant woman with AIDS who needed Daraprim to survive, and whether he thought he had done anything wrong. Shkreli declined to answer. "I intend to follow the advice of my counsel, not yours," said Shkreli after South Carolina Republican Representative Trey Gowdy suggested he could answer questions that were unrelated to pending fraud charges against him. After the hearing, Shkreli's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, attributed his client's behavior to "nervous energy." Later, though, Shkreli wrote on Twitter: "Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government." U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings, who learned about the tweet while Turing Chief Commercial Officer Nancy Retzlaff was testifying, pounded his fist on the dais. The Maryland Democrat then shouted about an internal Turing document in which a staffer joked about the price increase. "You all spent all of your time strategizing about how to hide your price increase ... and coming up with stupid jokes while other people were sitting there trying to figure out how they were going to survive," Cummings said. Shkreli was arrested in December and charged with running his investment funds and companies almost like a Ponzi scheme. He has pleaded not guilty to the fraud charges, which are not related to the pricing of Daraprim. He also stepped down from Turing and was fired from KaloBios Pharmaceuticals Inc. Cummings pleaded with Shkreli to reconsider his views about drug pricing: "You can go down as the poster boy for greedy drug company executives, or you can change the system." At one point, Brafman asked to address the committee, but Chaffetz said no. Shkreli was allowed to leave the hearing early after he repeated that he would not answer any questions.