Martin Shkreli Pleads the Fifth Before Congress

Martin Shkreli

Ex-drug executive appeared at hearing examining rising drug prices


WASHINGTON—Former pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli, who prompted a public outcry last year for raising the price of a lifesaving medication, asserted his Fifth Amendment right not to testify Thursday before a House committee—a stance that visibly angered lawmakers exploring escalating drug costs.

His appearance before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform marked the end of weeks of negotiation over whether he would attend the hearing, involving the committee and Mr. Shkreli’s lawyers, as well as a barrage of tweets from Mr. Shkreli that criticized lawmakers. He claimed he was being asked to come to the hearing merely to help Congress score political points or provide entertaining theater.

Pressed by one committee member to answer some questions that wouldn’t incriminate himself, Mr. Shkreli said, “I intend to follow the advice of my counsel, not yours.”

Mr. Shkreli appeared to smirk, look away, and otherwise goad lawmakers, and declined to answer when asked about the Wu-Tang Clan, a hip-hop group whose album he reportedly bought for $2 million. He left, and as the hearing continued, he said in an unconfirmed tweet on Mr. Shkreli’s verified Twitter account, “Hard to accept that these imbeciles represent the people in our government.”

At one point during the hearing, an irate Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) informed fellow committee members that their star witness had just insulted them online.

Mr. Shkreli, who gained unwelcome notoriety for a 50-fold increase in the price of one lifesaving medication, stole the show. But beyond the theatrics, the crux of the hearing came in the more serious probing of top executives from Turing Pharmaceuticals AG andValeant Pharmaceuticals International Inc., as well as Food and Drug Administration officials, on drug costs.

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