If you find yourself listening to free advice from notorious fraudster and pharmaceutical price-gouger, Martin Shkreli, then it might be time to re-evaluate some things. And that’s exactly the scenario Do Kwon, Terra’s disgraced CEO and “not on the run” fugitive, ended up in on a Tuesday podcast stream.
Both the “pharma bro” and the crypto-crash king made surprise guest appearances on a livestreamed episode of the Up Only podcast, a cryptocurrency interview show. And listening to both men repeatedly defend themselves basically unquestioned is as cringe-worthy as you might imagine. Gizmodo scanned through the podcast to find the highlights, so you don’t have to. But first, some background.
Former pharma executive, Martin Shkreli, was convicted on multiple fraud counts in 2017 after raising the cost of life-saving drug, Daraprim, by 5,000%. The cost of one pill for the anti-parasitic medication, commonly used by immunosuppressed people like AIDS patients, skyrocketed overnight from $US13.50 ($19) to $US750 ($1,041) under Shkreli’s leadership at Turing Pharmaceuticals. Shkreli was released from prison earlier this year, after serving a shortened sentence, and has since pivoted into the crypto-sphere. The price of Daraprim, however, remains above $US700 ($972) per pill — though the drug costs pennies to make.
Do Kwon is the co-founder and CEO of Terraform Labs, a blockchain platform most known for it’s very unstable, “stablecoin” terraUSD. The cryptocurrency was at one point the fourth most popular, and was supposed to be pegged to the value of the U.S. dollar. But it ended up in a death spiral to zero this past May. Investors lost everything. South Korean authorities issued a warrant for Kwon’s arrest in September over allegations of fraud and tax evasion. He reportedly fled his home country and has been evading law enforcement since. Most recently, he’s been rumoured to be hiding out in Europe.
Kwon hopped on the podcast first, at around the one hour and 12 minute mark. (Note: the entire episode is a full two hours and 38 minutes long.) He began his appearance on the show by chuckling and admitting “ok, like I’m on the run.” and then said he was on a boat, though it was unclear if he was joking. From that introduction, he then weighed in on the ongoing collapse of crypto firm FTX.
“Crisis management is not easy. But you know just from the hate that’s spreading across the Twitter timeline, it doesn’t really seem like average users understand the complexity,” Kwon said, defending FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried. Asked for specific crisis management tips, by one of the podcast hosts, Kwon said, “I don’t think I’m the best person to ask.” Then, he defended his own actions and his crypto company’s collapse, claiming that terraUSD’s death spiral was out of his control.
And, in case you were worried about how Kwon has been doing since May, don’t. Apparently, tanking $US60 ($83) billion of other people’s money has given the CEO a nice break. “It’s sort of given me a lot of time and headspace to think about interesting things…I hadn’t coded in some time, but [now] you know I’m just picking up projects that I think are interesting, and it’s fun,” he said.
One of the podcast hosts described Kwon as “sociopathic,” and shortly after — as if summoned Beetlejuice-style — Martin Shkreli popped in at around the 1:34:00 mark to offer his own two cents on FTX.
Clearly, Shkreli likes the sound of his own voice because he talked extensively, dropping attention-grabbing anecdotes like how, allegedly the CEO of Lehman Brothers, Richard Fuld, once personally tried to sell him Brazilian real estate.
Then he addressed Kwon directly, “Hey Do, I just wanted to let you know jail’s not that bad. It’s not the worst thing, you know. So don’t fret if that… I hope it doesn’t happen, but if it does happen it’s not that bad.”
When questioned about why he’s gotten into crypto since leaving prison, Shkreli claimed he’s actually been in crypto for a while, even through his incarceration.
“I’ve been around the hoop for a while, just quietly. I mean, you can’t make too much noise while you’re in prison. I started in around 2014,” he said — adding that he thinks cryptocurrency is a “fascinating space.”
He then spent a lot of time waxing poetic about how “there is no honest actor in crypto,” before facing some light questioning from the podcast hosts. In a defensive moment, Shkreli delivered maybe the most painful line of the entire debacle. “I was acquitted of most of my charges. All my investors made three to five times their money. So, in terms of deceit, a lot of people asked me if they could ‘be deceived more Daddy,’ because I was a pretty good investor for their portfolios.” Yikes.
At one point, a show host asked Shkreli, “Do you ever think you went too far on the drug prices.” And the ex-exec immediately responded, “I don’t.” He went on to explain that, actually his price gouging was a good thing because the pharmaceutical industry needs to be “well capitalised and profitable and sustainable.”
“I don’t think you have to be a nice person,” he said. “There need to be some drugs that are very expensive.”
So on the off chance that you too, are looking for advice from that guy: He predicted that five to ten crypto funds will survive long term, similar to the fallout from the 1990’s internet boom. Shkreli also said he thinks Bankman-Fried will face jail time over FTX’s failure and that Binance’s pending acquisition of the rival firm will fall through.
As a bonus: he claimed to be texting with noted grifter, Anna “Delvey” Sorokin during the podcast and ended his time on the show by doing part of Up Only’s sponsored FTX ad outro.
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