MANHATTAN (CN) – A lawyer hired as chief compliance officer at Turing Pharmaceuticals shortly after Martin Shkreli brought the company international scorn lobbed federal defamation claims Thursday against the fallen pharmaceutical tycoon.
Represented by the firm Hach Rose, New Jersey-based Eve Costopoulos says Shkreli brought her onboard at Turing in early fall 2015 shortly after he jacked the price overnight of its signature drug Daraprim by more than 5,000 percent.
Shkreli became a household name overnight as well, but his turbulent descent into comic-book villain status still makes headlines. The Brooklyn-born entrepreneur got seven years for securities fraud this past March.
Costopoulos claims meanwhile that she was the victim of Shkreli’s “campaign of harassment and character assassination” as his criminal fallout caused his influence at Turing to wane.
“Beginning in September 2016, he threatened her employment on multiple occasions, took to public forums to make false and untrue accusations against her by name, and maligned her name in the legal and pharmaceutical professional communities,” the complaint states.
Shkreli’s attorney, Benjamin Brafman has not responded to a request for comment, nor have representatives for Turing, which has since changed its name to Vyera Pharmaceuticals.
Costopoulos notes that she had only been at Turing a few months when she took on the role of general counsel in February 2016, just as Shkreli resigned his position on the board to contend with his nascent indictment.
Despite his resignation, however, the complaint emphasizes that Shkreli still controlled 30 percent of Turing’s voting shares directly, plus an additional 16 percent through proxies.
No sooner did Costopoulos assume the additional unpaid responsibilities of general counsel, she says, then Shkreli requested that Turing hire him as a business consultant.
“It was understood by many at the company that Mr. Shkreli was in need of money to pay for his high-profile criminal defense team,” the complaint explains.
As Shkreli’s personal attorney hounded Turing for months to get the consulting agreement in place, Costopoulos says her resistance to the idea caused Shkreli to lash out.
“His anger and frustration that he was not able to control those at the top levels of what he still believed to be ‘his company,’ consumed him,” the complaint states. “He became vengeful for the sake of being vengeful, publicly embarrassing himself and Turing.”
Costopoulos says Shkreli’s explicit threats against her began in September 2016, and that “the attacks became more frequent abrasive” through 2017 when he installed five supporters on Turing’s board of directors.
“Make Turing Great Again. Drain the swamp,” Shkreli posted to his Facebook page on June 21, 2017, appropriating two slogans from the 2016 Trump campaign.
During the lead-up to his trial and sentencing, a focus on the presidential election accounted for a significant share of Shkreli’s internet trolling. Indeed the presiding judge actually revoked Shkreli’s bond in September 2016, after his conviction, because he had offered his Facebook followers a $5,000 bounty for each strand of Hillary Clinton’s hair they could procure.
In 2017, Shkreli was also banned from Twitter after harassing Teen Vogue columnist Lauren Duca for refusing to accompany him to Trump’s inauguration.
Costopoulos claims meanwhile that Shkreli fostered this same culture of misogyny at Turing.
She notes how Shkreli stalked Secretary Clinton outside of her daughter’s New York apartment in September 2016, and says he “pursued a similar pattern of social media and email threats and harassment” with her.
“If an agency as powerful as the Secret Service voiced concern about Mr. Shkreli’s threat directed at Secretary Clinton, imagine the impact and distress that continuous threatening emails and Facebook posts had on plaintiff, who did not have the benefit of any protection, let alone that of the United States Secret Service,” the complaint states.
Costopoulos says Turing placed her on administrative leave on June 22, 2017, but waited a month to unveil the unfounded charges against her. She says she resigned on the spot only to be “unceremoniously terminated … for cause” four days later.
Shkreli’s actions against Costopoulos went beyond mere humiliation and harassment, she says, noting that many of his emails “go as far to insinuate that Ms. Costopoulos was engaged in criminal misconduct.”
“Moreover, on multiple occasions, Defendant Shkreli posted these false accusations publicly on Facebook, again insinuating that Ms. Costopoulos committed fraud and should be sent to jail,” the complaint states.
The complaint alleges one count of defamation and one count of tortious interference with contract. Costopoulos is represented by Hach Rose attorney Daniel Rehns.