Muzzled by attorney, Martin Shkreli to get earful in DC

Last Updated Feb 3, 2016 4:15 PM EST

Assuming Martin Shkreli shows up for a congressional hearing in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, the much-vilified former hedge fund manager and Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO won't be saying much.

"If required to appear before a congressional committee tomorrow, on the advice of council Mr. Shkreli will invoke his Fifth Amendment privileges against self-incrimination and will not be answering any questions," Benjamin Brafman, Shkreli's new lawyer, told reporters Wednesday outside a Brooklyn, New York, court.

Lawmakers, however, are unlikely to curtail their speech, with one Democrat releasing a memo in advance of the hearing that quoted excerpts of emails displaying Shkreli's near glee in anticipating the coming windfall from hiking the price of a decades-old drug Daraprim.

Congressional investigators found a similar scenario at Valeant Pharmacuticals, which mulled how much it could increase the cost of two heart drugs before buying them and hiking their prices overnight, one by as much as 525 percent. Howard Schiller, Valeant's interim chief executive, is expected at Thursday's hearing.

"We've heard from hospitals, as well as from Congress, that we set the price for these two drugs too high, and we've responded by offering volume-based discounts of up to 30 percent for each," Valeant said Tuesday.

A high-profile defense attorney hired by Shkreli to help him fight charges of securities fraud, Brafman noted Shkreli's penchant for placing himself in the public eye, telling the media throng: "I know he has previously spoken with many of you, if not all of you."

But that access has apparently come to an end. "One of the conditions of my engagement was that from hence forward he does not speak to any member of the press at all until criminal charges are resolved," Brafman said. "We want to try this case in the courtroom and not in the media."

And while it seems that members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform may not get satisfactory answers about drug price hikes from Shkreli, the current poster boy for corporate greed did speak on that very same topic in an appearance Wednesday on the syndicated radio show called The Breakfast Club.

"The number one thing I'd say, in law, cause a lot of people don't understand this, it's kind of interesting, you can be prosecuted for not maximizing profits," Shkreli said. "You have to do everything in your power to make as much money as possible, in the system that we've got. That's business."

As for the charges he's facing, which are unrelated to the public outrage sparked by his company's decision to increase the price of a life-saving pill to $750 each from $13.50, Shkreli said: "I'm confident we'll beat the charges."

Asked if he was scared about going to jail, Shkreli displayed his usual bravodo, saying "No, I'm not scared of anything."

Shkreli also weighed in on Donald Trump, saying the Republican presidential candidate "talks way too much. We all know that, so who's the spoiled brat?"

Inside the courtroom, a federal prosecutor said the former drug executive might need to offer additional assets to keep himself out of jail, given the ETrade account he used to secure his $5 million bail is no longer worth as much as it had been. Most of the account, which had been valued at $45 million, consisted of KaloBios Pharmaceuticals (KBIO) stock, Assistant U.S. Attorney Winston Paes reportedly told the hearing. It's now worth between $4 million and $5 million, Paes said.

KaloBios, the drug company that Shkreli once ran, filed for bankruptcy protection in December following Shkreli's arrest. It shares have declined to just above two bucks from a high of $45.82 in November.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for early May.