Who is Sunny Balwani? Role in Theranos scam explained

The latest chapter of the Theranos scandal ended after the Silicon Valley blood testing company’s chief operating officer, Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, was convicted of fraud.

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The now-defunct company was valued at $9 billion (£7.5 billion) at its peak.

Sunny Balwani was found guilty of defrauding Theranos investors and patients (Image: Getty Images)

But who exactly is Sunny Balwani – and what role did he play in the Theranos scam?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Who is Sunny Balwani?

Ramesh “Sunny” Balwani, 57, was the chief operating officer of Theranos — meaning he ran the company’s day-to-day operations.

Born in Pakistan in 1965, he worked his way up through IT software companies in the 1990s before taking on the role of President at a Silicon Valley startup called CommerceBid during the dot-com boom.

It was bought by another company – Commerce One – for $225 million, with Balwani raking in $40 million when he sold his stake.

He got out just before the dot-com bubble collapsed.

He then enrolled in a business master’s program at the University of California, Berkeley, where he met Elizabeth Holmes, who was 18 at the time.

Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty in a separate trial over the Theranos fraud scandal in early 2022 (Image: AFP/Getty Images)

In 2002 he divorced his Japanese wife, but it is unclear if this was the result of a romantic relationship with Holmes.

It is believed that the pair only officially became a couple around the time of Theranos’ formation in 2003.

Holmes has since claimed Balwani abused her when they were together – allegations Balwani has denied.

Not much else is known about Balwani.

What role did Sunny Balwani play in the Theranos scandal?

Sunny Balwani was essentially Elizabeth Holmes’ right-hand man at Theranos following his appointment to the company’s board of directors in 2010.

By 2016, he held multiple roles including President, Chief Operating Officer, and Chief Financial Officer.

In addition to managing day-to-day operations while Elizabeth Holmes ran the business, Balwani also ran the Theranos lab for a time.

Sunny Balwani was found to have played a bigger role than Elizabeth Holmes in the Theranos scandal (Image: Getty Images)

He also invested $15 million in the company to get it off the ground, with that stake being worth an estimated $500 million at one point.

Theranos’ downfall began when whistleblowers revealed that his lab’s internal tests had major inaccuracies — something Balwani was likely aware of.

Despite a plea of ​​not guilty, Balwani was found guilty on all 12 charges of fraud by US prosecutors.

In addition to defrauding investors – for which Elizabeth Holmes was also convicted – the businessman was also convicted of defrauding patients.

At his trial, testimony was heard from prosecution witnesses detailing the real-world impact of the inaccuracies of Theranos’ tests, including from people who had been told they would suffer miscarriages or cancer.

Elizabeth Holmes was the glamorous and confident face of Theranos’ blood tests (Image: Getty Images)

Balwani’s conviction in more fraud counts than Elizabeth Holmes means the US legal system ultimately found him more guilty than his ex-girlfriend in the Theranos scandal.

His lawyers tried to portray him as a loyal foot soldier working under Holmes’ direction.

But prosecutors won over the 13-member jury by calling witnesses who said he shared incorrect financial projections for the company and also leaked a message he had sent to Holmes that read, “I’m all for Theranos.” responsible. All were also my decisions.”

How long could Sunny Balwani be sentenced?

After his 13-week trial, during which Balwani was found guilty of 12 counts of fraud, he is expected to face around 20 years in prison.

He may also have to pay out millions of dollars to his victims.

Holmes could face a similarly long sentence.

She is currently out on bail but is due to be sentenced on September 26.

Balwani is expected to be sentenced on November 15.