Trashing trust with a false prospectus

Theranos Inc. and Elizabeth Holmes: two names a million miles away from UK politics, and yet…

The post-trial soul-searching analysis of the failed $9.6bn Californian company and its now convicted founder/CEO, holds timely lessons not only for Westminster, but all political parties and the entire UK electorate.

The epic 10-year Theranos saga was prime example of the ‘rush for riches’ ethos epitomised by the “Fake it ‘til you make it” school of start-up innovators. The saga is not yet over. The CEO will not be sentenced for her fraud until next September, after the trial of her company’s president.

The fall-out includes great personal losses – sad stories of lifesavings lost, careers wrecked, and reputations tarnished – and a massive crash of trust in good governance. The trial exposed the lies, the cover-ups, attempted suppression of whistle-blowers, and the failings of ‘due diligence’ processes. Small grains of truth, mixed with large doses of wishful thinking, topped with confident presentational skills and few questions – a recipe for a fraudulent money-making machine.

Trashing trust is relatively easy, but its restoration is a major undertaking – and for some it will be impossible. The unavoidable truth is that trust trashing is a deeply embedded consequence of unmoderated capitalist economics. The pursuit of growth is described by Kate Raworth as, “The end that never ends”.

But now, we can glimpse the end – the catastrophic collapse of our life-sustaining climate, but, more immediately, the collapse of a government built on very small grains of truth, massive doses of wishful thinking, laced with presentational panache, baked in an unregulated oven, served without even the merest hint of embarrassment – a false prospectus leaving voters gutted.

* David Brunnen is media liaison officer for Fareham Liberal Democrats. He writes on Municipal Autonomy, Intelligent Communities, Sustainability & Digital Challenges.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • >The epic 10-year Theranos saga was prime example of the ‘rush for riches’ ethos epitomised by the “Fake it ‘til you make it” school of start-up innovators. The saga is not yet over.
    Agree, the saga isn’t over, there are others such as Uber, in the queue…

  • Peter Hirst 18th Jan '22 - 5:50pm

    Fraud like many crimes is performed in the expectation that you can get away with it. We don’t know how many do. Even ethical marketing pushes the boundary of what can be expected of a service or product. It is a toss up whether to tackle it you improve the detection or increase the penalties for being convicted. The former is expensive though tackles the cause more effectively than leaving the “unlucky” few to fall on their sword.

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