The media began covering every minute detail of the now infamous "pharma bro." The Washington Post published the blow-by-blow account of a woman who went on a Tinder date with Shkreli; Gawker broke down one of his last live-stream broadcasts before the arrest; Vanity Fair ran a profile in which he was called "Wall Street's most visible villain"; other outlets dug into the history of lawsuits against him, including one that claimed he harassed a former employee. Shkreli says a New Yorker reporter—who apparently learned he's a fan of bands like Thursday, Brand New, and New Found Glory—has been haranguing him to attend an emo night.By December, the number of allegations against Shkreli and the people who had beef with him was testing the bounds of credulity. An ex-girlfriend said he offered her $10,000 to go down on her. Bernie Sanders rejected a campaign donation from Shkreli, and Donald Trump called him a "spoiled brat" and a "disgrace." And just last week, Ghostface Killah traded insults with him on Twitter on the same day his lawyer said the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was investigating Turing for price-gouging.So there were plenty who rejoiced when the hip-hop–hoarding mogul was accused by the feds of essentially being a con man. Prosecutors claim Shkreli lied to his hedge fund investors about their returns after losing a disastrous bet, then paid them back in Retrophin stock by hiring them as "consultants," cooking his books. Now Shkreli is preparing to defend himself at trial while dealing with the fallout of being America's new favorite bad guy.
"On the record, you wouldn't be able to find someone who's like, 'Oh, that guy scammed me.' Didn't fucking happen."
He had other interests, like games of chess with the old guys at the public library down the block, or playing in a punk band named Coney Island Whitefish, after a Joan Jett song. Shkreli recalls showing up to high school in order to "mostly, like, hang out with chicks, play guitar and basketball" while skipping class. A former bandmate describes him as a funny slacker who didn't have many friends. Finance was always his lodestar.In 2000, when he wasn't even 18, Shkreli got a job interview with Jim Cramer, who would go on to fame as the Mad Money TV stock analyst but was still running his own hedge fund at the time. Shkreli worked there for four years, through his time at Baruch College, and emerged as a Blackberry-wielding associate at another firm called Intrepid Capital.
Shkreli recalls showing up to high school in order to "mostly, like, hang out with chicks, play guitar and basketball" while skipping class.
Shkreli's new company was a success, but its board booted him as CEO in September 2014. By that December, there were two lawsuits against him, with one man alleging that Shkreli was buying and selling his own company's stock in violation of Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules, and a group of investors claiming that he committed "stock irregularities" by paying back investors in MSMB with Retrophin money. The first suit was dismissed within a month. But the second, which is ongoing and closely mirrors the federal indictment, claims that Shkreli lied to the SEC and that he asserted there was $2.6 million in MSMB Capital's coffers when, in fact, its bank and brokerage accounts were nearly empty.
"If anyone should get rich in life, it's the guy who's helping the dying kid."
"He should be playing craps at the casino and not trying to say he's good for the public health."
We head back to his apartment, where he opens a magnum of Bordeaux he says cost $15,000 and rolls around the vinyl floor on his hoverboard while taking $120 sips. After I give the hoverboard a disastrous try, falling off and accidentally slugging him in the eye, we sit down and talk about his routine. He's no longer CEO of Turing (though he still owns the company) and was fired as the head of KaloBios. So what does he do all day?Shkreli says he goes to the office, plays chess, reads science textbooks, and can be found either in his apartment, his office, or on his live stream. Because of the pending trial, he's not allowed to travel beyond suburban Westchester County—which is where he spent New Year's Eve with friends—and doesn't often go home to Brooklyn. With the Wu-Tang album playing in the background, Shkreli says he vacillates between wanting to destroy the record and dreaming of installing it in some remote place so that people have to make a spiritual quest to listen. "I'm not just the heel of the music world," he says. "I want to be the world's heel."He also tells me that even though the securities fraud charges have nothing to do with his actions at Turing—and the government's investigation began before Shkreli became a household name—he knows for a fact that his infamy is why newly-minted US Attorney Robert Capers indicted him for his first major case."This is their fucking limelight," Shkreli says of the feds. "This is their chance to be gods, to be a rockstar, to be whatever it is—celebrated." (An audibly annoyed spokesperson for the US Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York declined to comment for this story.)He adds that his scheme can't be Ponzi-like because the people he paid back with Retrophin stock profited: "The nutshell is that people were possibly misled into making a lot of money."He's similarly scornful of the members of Congress who asked him to testify before their investigation into pharmaceutical price-hiking at a hearing that was supposed to be this week, but got postponed after a blizzard shut down the capital. "Politicians get elected when they take on bad guys," Shkreli says. "And someone's saying, 'This is the bad guy, therefore I have to take this guy on.'"Even though the heavens have parted and bought him some extra time to mull it over, it's still unclear whether he'll choose to tell Congress his story or risk being held in contempt."I guess I can't find a nice way of saying it, but it's not my job to teach people how drugs work," he tells me. "This sounds like a nasty thing to say, but if they don't want to understand the system, why is the burden on me to understand how the system works? It shouldn't be."For now, it seems unlikely that Shkreli will testify before Congress beyond invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination; his lawyer has said as much, and with a pending FTC investigation on top of the charges he's already fighting in court, it would seem like a bad move for Shkreli to serve up any more string to prosecutors.On the other hand, this is a man who talked rich people into letting him manage their money, who kept defending his business practices on social media long after everyone hated him for them, who will spend hours telling anyone who asks—fans, enemies, reporters—pretty much anything they want, including how the system works. If he gets up in front of a microphone before an audience in DC, is he really going to be able to keep his mouth shut?All photos by Bobby Viteri.Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.
"I'm not just the heel of the music world," he says. "I want to be the world's heel."