Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to an exclusive interview with a remarkable individual who has made waves in the world of investigative journalism. Today, I have the privilege of introducing none other than John Carreyrou, an acclaimed writer and journalist whose relentless pursuit of truth has exposed some of the most shocking corporate deceptions in recent history.
Carreyrou’s name became synonymous with journalistic integrity after his groundbreaking work on the Theranos scandal. As the former Wall Street Journal reporter who first uncovered the fraudulent practices within this once-celebrated healthcare company, Carreyrou showed unwavering dedication to unearthing the truth behind its facade.
In his bestselling book “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” Carreyrou takes us on a gripping journey through his investigation into Theranos. His meticulous research and unwavering commitment to accuracy reveal a harrowing tale of deceit, manipulation, and the devastating consequences of corporate misconduct.
Since breaking the Theranos story, Carreyrou has emerged as a prominent voice in exposing corruption and systemic wrongdoing. His work serves as a reminder of the vital role investigative journalists play in holding powerful entities accountable, ensuring transparency, and protecting the public interest.
Today, we have the unique opportunity to delve into the mind of this tenacious journalist. We will explore his motivations, experiences, and insights gained from years of working in the field. From discussing the challenges he faced during the Theranos investigation to examining the broader implications of corporate deception, this interview promises to be an illuminating conversation with a true champion of truth.
Please join me in welcoming John Carreyrou, a relentless seeker of justice and a beacon of hope for those seeking accountability in an increasingly complex world.
Who is John Carreyrou?
John Carreyrou is an accomplished investigative journalist and author known for his compelling work in exposing corporate misconduct and fraud. Born on August 14, 1970, Carreyrou has made a significant impact in the field of journalism with his relentless pursuit of truth and dedication to uncovering corruption.
Carreyrou’s most notable achievement came with his groundbreaking investigation into the notorious healthcare technology company Theranos. His book “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” which chronicles his investigation, became a bestseller and shed light on the deceptive practices that ultimately led to the downfall of Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes.
Prior to his work on Theranos, Carreyrou spent over two decades as a journalist at The Wall Street Journal, where he covered a wide range of subjects including technology, biotech, and healthcare. He received numerous accolades for his reporting, including the prestigious Pulitzer Prize in 2019 for Investigative Reporting for his ground-breaking work on Theranos.
Carreyrou’s commitment to thorough research, attention to detail, and tenacity in pursuing the truth have established him as a reliable and respected journalist. His work serves as a reminder of the vital role investigative journalism plays in holding corporations accountable and safeguarding the interests of the public.
Beyond his professional achievements, Carreyrou is recognized for his integrity and unwavering dedication to ethical journalism. His work has inspired aspiring journalists and readers alike around the world, highlighting the importance of journalistic integrity and the power of investigative reporting.
20 Thought-Provoking Questions with John Carreyrou
1.Can you share your favorite 10 quotes from Bad Blood?
Sure, here are my favorite 10 quotes from Bad Blood.
1.The way Theranos is operating is like trying to build a bus while you’re driving the bus. Someone is going to get killed.
2.It just feels like you want us to give you the formula for Coke in order to convince you that it doesn’t contain arsenic,King said.Nobody’s asked for the formula for Coke!Jay replied, annoyed.
3.It’s not a huge deal,he said. Just don’t go anywhere you’re not supposed to be and remember to smile and wave to the man in the bushes outside your house when you leave for work.
4.And Elizabeth was so persuasive. She had this intense way of looking at you while she spoke that made you believe in her and want to follow her.
5.Elizabeth and Sunny seemed unable, or unwilling, to distinguish between a prototype and a finished product.
6.Toward the end she boasted, I’m not afraid of anything,adding after a brief pause, except needles.
7.Evangelizing was what successful startup founders did in Silicon Valley. You didn’t change the world by being cynical.
8.Henry, you’re not a team player,she said in an icy tone. I think you should leave right now.
9.Health care was the most highly regulated industry in the country and for good reason: the lives of patients were at stake.
10.When you strike at the king, you must kill him.Todd Surdey and Michael Esquivel had struck at the king, or rather the queen. But she’d survived.
2. How did you first become aware of the Theranos scandal?
I became aware of the Theranos scandal through a tip from a confidential source. In 2015, I received an anonymous email that raised concerns about the accuracy and reliability of the blood-testing technology developed by Theranos. Intrigued by the allegations and sensing a potential story, I began investigating further. To corroborate the claims made in the email, I conducted extensive research, interviewed former employees, and analyzed public documents related to Theranos.
Through my investigation, I uncovered a web of deception and fraudulent practices within the company. I published my findings in a series of articles in The Wall Street Journal, detailing the discrepancies between Theranos’ claims and the reality of their technology. This sparked a widespread investigation into Theranos by regulatory authorities and eventually led to the downfall of the company and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes.
By pursuing these leads and conducting rigorous investigative journalism, I aimed to shed light on the truth behind the Theranos scandal and expose the potential dangers it posed to patients and the broader healthcare industry.
3. What was the most surprising thing you discovered during your investigation into Theranos?
The most surprising thing I discovered during my investigation into Theranos was the sheer extent of deception and fraud that had taken place within the company. As I delved deeper into the story, I uncovered a web of lies and misrepresentations that were being perpetuated by the founder, Elizabeth Holmes, and her team.
One of the most striking revelations was the fact that Theranos’s blood testing technology, which they claimed could revolutionize the healthcare industry, was actually deeply flawed and unreliable. They had been misleading investors, regulators, and even their own employees about the capabilities and accuracy of their testing devices.
Additionally, I was amazed to uncover the lengths to which Theranos went to suppress any negative information or dissenting opinions. Whistleblowers were intimidated, threatened, and silenced, while the company used its powerful connections to try to discredit anyone who questioned their claims.
The pervasive culture of secrecy and manipulation within Theranos was truly shocking. It was disheartening to see how the company had capitalized on people’s hopes for improved healthcare, only to deceive them for personal gain.
4. How did you approach gathering information and conducting interviews for the book?
In gathering information and conducting interviews for my book, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” I followed a rigorous investigative journalism approach. My primary goal was to uncover the truth behind the fraudulent practices at Theranos.
To begin with, I conducted extensive research on Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. This involved reviewing public documents, court filings, patents, and news articles related to the company. I also reached out to current and former employees, industry experts, and regulatory authorities to gain a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter.
When it came to conducting interviews, my approach was rooted in seeking multiple perspectives and verifying information through corroboration. I interviewed over 150 sources, including ex-employees, whistleblowers, investors, patients, and individuals familiar with the workings of Theranos. These interviews were conducted both in person and over the phone.
During the interviews, I asked detailed questions to elicit as much information as possible. I aimed to create a safe and confidential environment for my sources to share their experiences and insights without fear of reprisal. I also cross-referenced the information obtained from different sources to ensure accuracy and consistency.
5. Were there any challenges or obstacles you faced while writing “Bad Blood”?
Here are a few of the key challenges I encountered:
Investigation: Conducting an in-depth investigation into Theranos, the company at the center of the book, was incredibly challenging. Theranos fiercely guarded its secrets, making it difficult to gather accurate information and verify the claims made by the company.
Access to Sources: Due to the secretive nature of Theranos and the fear of retaliation from the company, it was challenging to find individuals willing to speak on the record about their experiences and concerns. Building trust with sources and convincing them to come forward required extensive effort and diligence.
Legal Threats: Throughout the process, I faced legal threats and pressure from Theranos and its legal team. This created additional hurdles as I had to navigate potential legal issues while ensuring the accuracy and integrity of my reporting.
Balancing Priorities: As an investigative journalist, I needed to balance my obligations to the truth and the public interest against the possible harm that could arise from exposing certain information. It was essential to carefully consider the potential consequences of publishing sensitive details.
6. How did publishing the book impact your career as a journalist?
Publishing my book, “Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup,” had a profound impact on my career as a journalist. The book chronicled the rise and fall of Theranos, a once-promising healthcare technology company that turned out to be built on deception and falsehoods.
First and foremost, the publication of the book brought widespread attention to the issues surrounding Theranos and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. It shed light on the extent of the company’s deception and the potential harm it could have caused to patients who relied on faulty blood tests. This investigative work helped to bring about accountability and justice.
The impact on my career was significant. The book received critical acclaim and became a bestseller, gaining both national and international recognition. It allowed me to establish myself as an authority in investigative journalism and opened doors to new opportunities. I was invited to speak at various conferences, events, and media outlets, where I shared insights into the story behind Theranos and discussed broader topics such as corporate fraud and ethics in the startup world.
Additionally, the success of the book led to further investigative reporting opportunities for me. I continued to expose wrongdoing and hold powerful individuals and organizations accountable for their actions. The book also served as a testament to the importance of rigorous reporting and fact-checking, inspiring other journalists to pursue investigative stories with similar rigor.
7. Did you face any backlash or threats as a result of exposing the Theranos scandal?
While investigating and exposing the Theranos scandal, I did face some backlash and threats. The revelations about Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes were met with strong resistance from the company and its supporters.
During my investigation, Theranos employed various tactics to discredit my reporting and undermine my credibility. They issued legal threats, attempted to intimidate sources, and challenged the accuracy of the information I had gathered. This is not uncommon when exposing fraudulent activities or wrongdoing, as those involved often try to protect themselves and their reputation.
Furthermore, there were instances where individuals associated with Theranos voiced their displeasure with my reporting publicly and made personal attacks against me. These types of responses are unfortunate but not unexpected when dealing with such high-profile cases.
However, it is important to note that despite the challenges faced, my commitment to thorough and accurate reporting remained unwavering. The ultimate goal was to shed light on the truth and protect the public interest, and I believe that was achieved through the exposure of the Theranos scandal.
8. Are there any lessons you learned from covering the Theranos story that you apply to your work today?
Covering the Theranos story was undoubtedly a significant experience that taught me several valuable lessons which I continue to apply to my work today. Firstly, it reinforced the importance of rigorous investigative journalism and the need to maintain a healthy skepticism when faced with extraordinary claims. The Theranos case demonstrated that even highly acclaimed individuals and companies can have hidden flaws or engage in deceptive practices, highlighting the necessity to thoroughly scrutinize information before accepting it as truth.
Secondly, the Theranos story emphasized the significance of protecting sources and whistleblowers. The courageous individuals who came forward with critical information were crucial in exposing the truth behind the company’s actions. Preserving the anonymity and safety of such sources is essential in uncovering wrongdoing and holding powerful entities accountable.
Furthermore, covering Theranos highlighted the value of persistence and tenacity in conducting an investigative report. Despite facing numerous challenges, including threats and intimidation, it was essential to persevere in pursuing the truth. This experience reinforced the importance of thorough research, fact-checking, and corroborating evidence to ensure a comprehensive and accurate account of events.
Lastly, the Theranos case serves as a reminder of the impact that investigative journalism can have on society. By shedding light on systemic issues and fraudulent practices, journalists play a vital role in safeguarding public interest and promoting accountability in both corporations and individuals.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring investigative journalists?
As an investigative journalist with experience exposing corporate fraud and misconduct, I would provide the following advice for aspiring investigative journalists:
Pursue the truth relentlessly: Your primary objective should be to uncover the truth, regardless of the obstacles or pressure you may face. Stay committed to thorough research, fact-checking, and corroborating evidence.
Develop strong research and analytical skills: Investigative journalism requires extensive research and analysis. Learn how to dig deep into various sources, conduct interviews, review documents, and connect the dots to build a compelling case.
Cultivate sources and protect their anonymity: Building relationships with confidential sources is crucial. Establish trust, ensure confidentiality, and protect your sources’ identities to encourage them to share valuable information.
Be persistent and patient: Investigations can take time, and progress may seem slow at times. Stay persistent, maintain a long-term perspective, and understand that complex stories often require substantial effort to unravel.
10. How do you think the “Bad Blood” story has influenced the perception of Silicon Valley startups?
The “Bad Blood” story has had a significant impact on the perception of Silicon Valley startups. The book exposes the fraudulent practices carried out by Theranos, a once-prominent biotech company, and highlights the dangers of unchecked ambition and deceit within the startup culture.
By revealing the deceptive actions taken by Theranos and its founder Elizabeth Holmes, the story serves as a cautionary tale for both investors and the general public. It has prompted greater skepticism towards miracle technologies and revolutionary claims made by ambitious entrepreneurs without sufficient evidence or transparency.
Furthermore, “Bad Blood” has shed light on the potential consequences of a culture that prioritizes rapid growth and disruption above all else, often at the expense of thorough research and testing. It’s fostered a more critical eye towards the “move fast and break things” mantra that is often associated with startups, encouraging stakeholders to demand accountability and integrity from companies in the tech industry.
While the story has undoubtedly tarnished the reputation of some Silicon Valley startups, it has also sparked important conversations about ethics, governance, and the need for regulatory oversight. These discussions can ultimately lead to positive changes within the ecosystem, ensuring that startups are held to higher standards and increasing trust among investors and the public.
11. Were there any ethical dilemmas you encountered while working on the book?
Throughout my investigative journalism, there were indeed several ethical dilemmas that arose during the process.
Confidentiality: One of the primary ethical concerns was maintaining confidentiality and protecting the identities of whistleblowers and sources who provided sensitive information. Ensuring their safety and privacy while still uncovering the truth required careful navigation.
Balance of interests: Striking a balance between the public interest in transparency and exposing wrongdoing versus the potential harm caused to individuals involved was another dilemma. It was crucial to consider the consequences of publishing certain information while being mindful of the potential reputational damage or personal consequences for those implicated.
Verification of facts: While investigating Theranos, it was essential to verify the accuracy of the information and claims made by various parties. This included validating documents and statements, corroborating accounts from different sources, and preserving the integrity of the reporting process.
12. Can you share any interesting anecdotes or behind-the-scenes stories from your experience investigating Theranos?
Absolutely! During my investigation of Theranos, I came across several interesting anecdotes and behind-the-scenes stories that shed light on the company’s practices. One particularly memorable anecdote involves the “Edison” machine, which was supposed to revolutionize blood testing.
While researching Theranos, I discovered that the Edison machine, touted as a breakthrough technology, was actually not functioning reliably. There were instances where tests conducted on the Edison produced wildly inaccurate results. To cover up these issues, Theranos would dilute samples with conventional machines made by other companies, so that the results appeared more consistent.
Another intriguing behind-the-scenes story involves the famous partnership between Theranos and Walgreens. Theranos had promised to install their revolutionary devices in Walgreens stores nationwide. However, during my investigation, I found out that many of the devices deployed at Walgreens were actually conventional machines manufactured by other companies. The deception went so far that some of the store employees were unaware that they were not using Theranos technology.
Additionally, throughout my interactions with former Theranos employees, I uncovered a culture of fear and secrecy. Employees were discouraged from discussing concerns or shortcomings within the company, and those who did were often met with intimidation or retaliation.
13. How did you ensure the accuracy and integrity of the information presented in “Bad Blood”?
Ensuring accuracy and integrity of the information presented in “Bad Blood” was of utmost importance to me. To achieve this, I followed a rigorous investigative process that involved extensive research, cross-referencing multiple sources, and conducting interviews with relevant individuals.
Here are the key steps I took to ensure accuracy and maintain integrity:
Thorough Investigation: I conducted a comprehensive investigation into the subject matter, diligently collecting evidence from various sources. This included court documents, internal company communications, interviews with former employees, and industry experts.
Multiple Sources: I made sure to corroborate information from different perspectives and sources. By cross-referencing statements and verifying facts through multiple channels, I aimed to present a well-rounded and accurate portrayal of events.
Fact-Checking: A diligent fact-checking process was implemented to ensure every detail was accurate. This involved verifying claims, dates, financial figures, and any other relevant information through reliable sources.
14. How did writing “Bad Blood” differ from your previous journalism assignments?
Writing “Bad Blood” was a unique experience compared to my previous journalism assignments in several ways. Firstly, the scope and magnitude of the story were significantly larger than anything I had tackled before. Investigating the rise and fall of Theranos, a multibillion-dollar healthcare startup, required extensive research, interviews, and a deep dive into complex scientific and corporate structures.
Secondly, the level of secrecy and deception surrounding Theranos made this assignment particularly challenging. Uncovering the truth behind Elizabeth Holmes and her company’s false claims required an immense amount of persistence, as well as careful navigation through legal and ethical considerations.
Another key difference was the high stakes involved. The impact of this story went beyond exposing corporate misconduct; it had direct implications for people’s health and well-being. It was crucial to handle the information responsibly and ensure that the public was properly informed about the risks associated with inaccurate medical testing.
Furthermore, writing “Bad Blood” presented me with the opportunity to craft a book-length narrative rather than a series of articles or shorter pieces. This allowed me to delve deeper into the intricate details of the Theranos saga, providing a comprehensive account of events and their consequences.
15. Can you tell us about your journey as an investigative journalist and how you discovered your passion for exposing corporate fraud?
As an investigative journalist, my journey has been filled with challenges, revelations, and a deep commitment to uncovering the truth. I have always been drawn to stories that expose wrongdoing and hold powerful entities accountable.
My passion for exposing corporate fraud began during my time at The Wall Street Journal. While working there, I encountered a tip about a promising medical technology company called Theranos. At first, it seemed like an exciting story about innovative breakthroughs in blood testing. However, as I dug deeper into the company’s claims and operations, I started to uncover inconsistencies and red flags.
Through extensive research, interviews, and analysis of internal documents, I slowly pieced together a narrative that revealed shocking deceptions within Theranos. The more I uncovered, the more convinced I became that there was a significant corporate fraud occurring.
I faced numerous obstacles along the way, such as threats of legal action and attempts to discredit my reporting. However, I remained committed to pursuing the truth and ensuring that the public had access to accurate information.
Through my articles in The Wall Street Journal, I exposed the discrepancies and false claims made by Theranos, ultimately leading to widespread scrutiny of the company. This investigation brought to light the potential dangers associated with unverified medical technologies and raised important questions about corporate integrity.
16. What challenges did you face while investigating the Theranos scandal, and how did you navigate them to successfully bring the truth to light?
Investigating the Theranos scandal presented several significant challenges. Firstly, gaining access to reliable sources and documents was difficult due to the secretive nature of the company and its founder, Elizabeth Holmes. Many employees were afraid to speak up due to non-disclosure agreements and fear of retaliation.
To navigate these challenges, I utilized various strategies. I built trust with former Theranos employees by ensuring their anonymity and protecting them from potential legal consequences. This allowed them to feel more comfortable sharing information, which proved crucial in unraveling the truth behind the company’s deceptive practices.
Another challenge was the constant pressure from Theranos and its legal team. The company employed aggressive tactics such as hiring private investigators, making threats, and attempting to silence whistleblowers. Overcoming this required persistence, resilience, and a commitment to upholding journalistic principles.
Additionally, I faced pushback from individuals who were invested in the Theranos narrative. Some influential figures in Silicon Valley saw the company as a revolutionary force and were reluctant to accept the evidence against it. Counteracting this required presenting solid facts and meticulously researched evidence that left no room for doubt.
17. In your opinion, what makes a good investigative journalist?
I believe that several qualities are essential for a good investigative journalist:
Tenacity and Persistence: Investigative journalists often face obstacles and resistance while uncovering the truth. Tenacity is crucial to push through these challenges and maintain focus on the investigation.
Unwavering Commitment to Truth: A good investigative journalist is driven by a commitment to seek and report the truth, irrespective of personal biases or external pressures. Objectivity and integrity are paramount.
Research and Analytical Skills: Investigative journalism requires meticulous research, data analysis, and the ability to connect dots to reveal hidden stories. Strong analytical skills help in examining complex information and unraveling intricate narratives.
Source Building and Networking: Building trusted sources and maintaining confidential relationships is crucial to access insider information. A good investigative journalist excels in networking and cultivating contacts who can provide valuable insights.
18. How has your experience covering the Theranos story shaped your perspective on ethics in business and journalism? Have there been any notable changes you’ve observed in the industry as a result of this high-profile case?
My experience covering the Theranos story has had a profound impact on my perspective regarding ethics in both business and journalism. The Theranos case was a prime example of how an ambitious entrepreneur, Elizabeth Holmes, misled investors, patients, and the public about her company’s capabilities and technology. It revealed a culture of deception, where ethical boundaries were crossed in pursuit of personal gain.
As a journalist, it reinforced the importance of investigative reporting and holding powerful individuals and corporations accountable for their actions. The Theranos story taught me that journalists must be diligent in verifying claims, conducting thorough investigations, and presenting accurate information to the public. In this case, rigorous fact-checking and relentless pursuit of evidence were essential to uncovering the truth behind Theranos’ false claims.
The Theranos scandal also highlighted the need for robust regulatory oversight and industry accountability. There have been notable changes in the industry as a result of this high-profile case. Regulatory bodies such as the FDA and CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) have become more vigilant in scrutinizing medical technology startups, particularly those making bold claims without sufficient evidence. Investors and consumers have grown more skeptical, demanding transparent data and validation before trusting groundbreaking claims from new companies.
19. How has the success of “Bad Blood” influenced your future writing projects or career direction?
The success of “Bad Blood” has had a profound impact on my future writing projects and career direction. Firstly, the overwhelmingly positive response to “Bad Blood” has reinforced my belief in the power of investigative journalism. It has shown me that there is a tremendous appetite for well-researched stories that uncover important truths and hold influential individuals or organizations accountable.
The success of “Bad Blood” has also given me confidence in my ability to tackle complex and captivating narratives. It has proven that stories about corporate misconduct or deception can resonate with readers across various backgrounds and interests. This realization has encouraged me to continue pursuing similar themes in my future writing projects.
Furthermore, the success of “Bad Blood” has opened up new opportunities for collaboration and exploration within the field of investigative journalism. It has allowed me to connect with other journalists, researchers, and whistleblowers who have important stories to share. These connections have not only enriched my work but also broadened my perspective and understanding of various industries and issues.
20. Finally, can you recommend more books which share similar themes with Bad Blood?
I would be happy to recommend some books that share similar themes and subject matter. Here are a few suggestions:
“The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron” by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind: This book investigates the infamous rise and fall of Enron, an energy company involved in accounting fraud and corporate corruption.
“Scientific Advertising”: Within this book, Hopkins delves into various aspects of advertising, such as headlines, copywriting, offers, and visual elements, sharing practical insights and techniques he used during his successful career. He emphasizes the power of testing and experimentation, encouraging advertisers to constantly refine their campaigns to maximize their impact.
“The Five Dysfunctions Of A Team”: It explores the fundamental obstacles that often hinder team effectiveness. This insightful and widely acclaimed management fable presents a compelling story that highlights five common dysfunctions that can undermine teamwork within an organization.
These books offer fascinating insights into corporate fraud, deception, and the consequences of unethical behavior. They explore how individuals exploit trust, manipulate systems, and ultimately face the repercussions of their actions.