Martin Shkreli was the most hated man in America, and Elizabeth Holmes was its golden girl. Maybe that explains why he’s heading to seven years in jail and a $7.4 million fine when he lost investors almost nothing, and she will pay only $500,000 when she lost them hundreds of millions of dollars. Holmes has also relinquished voting control of her company (along with 18.9 million shares of near-worthless stock) and is barred from heading another public company for 10 years.
The lesson most people online have drawn from the discrepancy between these fallen financiers’ respective crimes and punishments is a simple one: Don’t be a jerk. But there’s a bit more to it than just that.
Shkreli, a former hedge fund manager, entered into infamy in 2015 when his pharmaceutical company raised the price of a lifesaving drug for AIDS patients from about $13.50 to $750 a pill. Then it turned out he’d committed securities fraud, too. He responded by smirking and photoshopping his head onto the shoulders of a female journalist’s husband on Twitter.