Pharma CEO Martin Shkreli testifies before Congress, calls Rep. Elijah Cummings an “imbecile,” gets ousted

Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on his former company's decision to raise the price of a lifesaving medicine. Shkreli refused to testify before U.S. lawmakers who excoriated him over severe hikes for a drug sold by a company that he acquired.

Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli smiles on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, during the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on his former company's decision to raise the price of a lifesaving medicine. Shkreli refused to testify before U.S. lawmakers who excoriated him over severe hikes for a drug sold by a company that he acquired. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The brash, 32-year-old entrepreneur who has been vilified as the new face of pharmaceutical-industry greed was summoned by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which is investigating soaring prices for critical medicines.

Four times, he intoned: “On the advice of counsel, I invoke my Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and respectfully decline to answer your question.”

Lawmakers erupted. Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the committee, all but told Shkreli to wipe the smile off his face.

“I call this money blood money … coming out of the pockets of hardworking Americans,” he said as Shkreli sat through the lecture.

“I know you are smiling, but I am very serious, sir,” Cummings said. “I truly believe you can become a force of tremendous good. All I ask is that you reflect on it. No, I don’t ask, I beg that you reflect on it. ”

The former hedge fund manager with a frat-boy swagger has been reviled in recent months for buying Daraprim, the only approved drug for a rare and sometimes deadly parasitic infection, and unapologetically raising its price more than fiftyfold.

Shkreli is out on $5 million bail after being arrested in New York in December on securities-fraud charges unrelated to the price increase.

Shkreli, wearing a sport jacket and open-collar shirt, was dismissed less than an hour into the hearing, but not before chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, shouted down a request by Shkreli’s attorney to speak. Lawmakers instead took turns denouncing his conduct and attitude.

Minutes after he left — and even before the hearing had ended — Shkreli thumbed his nose at the committee.

“Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government,” the former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals tweeted.

Shkreli’s attorney Benjamin Brafman later said in his defense: “He meant no disrespect, but in truth, statements made by some of the members of the committee were wrong, unfair and difficult to listen to without responding.”

Shkreli calls himself “the world’s most eligible bachelor” and “the most successful Albanian to ever walk the face of this Earth.” He strums his guitar on YouTube and paid a reported $2 million for the only known copy of an album by the Wu-Tang Clan.

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