Once lauded as the youngest self-made female billionaire, Elizabeth Holmes is serving a 135-month federal prison term. She also owes $452 million in restitution for her role in defrauding investors and patients. It is her lawyers’ recent plea to the court, however, that has sparked renewed controversy and debate. Her lawyers requested that Judge Davilla exempt Holmes from making a $250 monthly restitution payment after she served her sentence. It is clear, to me at least, she is seeking to avoid taking any responsibility in prison for her actions.
This move by Holmes’ lawyers is shocking, mainly because it signals a severe misunderstanding of the critical stakeholders and their perceptions of this or any white-collar crime case. These stakeholders include the Judge, her probation officer, her case manager, the victims of her deception, and the U.S. Attorney.
A Misunderstanding of Stakeholders:
Rather than appealing to these stakeholders’ interests, Holmes focuses more on herself. She overlooks that every decision she makes now will significantly influence her journey in prison, her earlier release, and her life after federal prison. This is especially pertinent considering the possibility of compassionate release under the First Step Act, which allows federal prisoners to request that their sentences be reduced for extraordinary and compelling reasons.
Disparity Between Spending and Paying:
Holmes spent or still owes approximately $30 million in legal fees, yet she contests a modest $250 monthly payment. This sends an unfavorable message about her financial priorities and willingness to take any responsibility for her actions.
While incarcerated, it’s worth noting that Holmes likely receives substantial financial support. One can reasonably estimate that her family sends her at least $500 monthly for her commissary account. Yet, she objects to a restitution payment of half that amount.
How must her case manager in prison feel, knowing she spends a considerable amount to live comfortably in prison, yet opposes a reasonable payment towards her massive judgment?
Holmes’ Lack of Perspective and The Consequences of Avoiding Responsibility in Prison:
It’s worth emphasizing that many individuals with fewer resources and no family support manage to make their restitution payments and do not complain. Many of these people were never billionaires and didn’t have the resources to give tens of millions to lawyers.
It’s not just the payment size that matters; it’s the principle. By refusing to pay even modest restitution, Holmes appears to avoid taking responsibility for the harm she caused. This sends an inappropriate message to those wronged by her actions and displays a distinct lack of empathy and understanding. The prisoners with whom she is serving time should be offended and disgusted.
Furthermore, the irony should not be lost that the lawyers’ bill for this court request exceeded the monthly restitution payment Holmes is contesting.
Forward-thinking and Strategy:
Defendants need to be strategic and forward-thinking. Holmes’s decision to contest this payment may well come back to haunt her, damaging her prospects and reputation even further.
Holmes must understand that while she has the right to appeal and profess her innocence, she cannot ignore her responsibility. Her lack of awareness and forward-thinking, as demonstrated by this ill-considered request, only underscores her continued unwillingness to understand the perspective of all stakeholders.
In conclusion, Holmes’ lawyers made a grave error in asking Judge Davilla not to impose the $250 monthly restitution payment.