If you want to know all the details of why Martin Shkreli was indicted, and how he has become associated with securities fraud (instead of just being associated with totally unrepentant drug price hikes), then this is the article to read. Here’s a bit:
The other way to sustain the lie — and the only possible permanent solution — is to gamble on redemption. If you’ve lost half of your investors’ money, but you’ve told them that you’ve doubled it, then you need to quadruple the money you have left. So you take riskier and riskier bets, hoping that one will eventually pay off and make up for all of the earlier losses. This basically never works! But it could work. And if it does, your investors will be happy, you will be rich, and no one will ever be the wiser.
This sounds exactly right – and actually, Shkreli seems to have (mostly) gotten away with it. But he seems also to have messed things up by being so fantastically obnoxious – if he’d kept his head down more, this indictment might not have happened at all. But if he could keep his head down more, he wouldn’t be Martin Shkreli. Like a character in an old Cordwainer Smith story, he’s actually being sentenced to a life of being his own difficult and complicated self.
For science-fiction fans and trivia buffs, the story referred to is “Drunkboat”, set in Smith’s strange and detailed future history, “The Instrumentality of Mankind”. That particular one involves extradimensional travel and is laced with references to the poetry of Rimbaud, and I believe that’s the one that gives you a clue that it’s actually taking place in Miami, thousands of years from now. Deciphering what Smith was up to definitely requires a liberal arts background – he works in puns in Russian and German, Chinese history, and more. My own contribution is that I’m pretty sure that one of his characters is named after a high school in Tennessee, but I certainly couldn’t tell you why. I’ve never seen that referenced anywhere, so I’m putting it out there for Smith’s remaining fans. The definitive Cordwainer Smith collection is The Rediscovery of Man.
Update: no, not on Martin Shkreli. He’s been tossed out of T*uring, but the heck with that, and him. More importantly, I’ve heard from another Cordwainer Smith reader, who tells me that Smith’s second wife was, in fact, from Kingsport, Tennessee, and graduated from the high school mentioned above (as did my late mother, many years ago). It was quite puzzling for me to read Smith back in the 1970s and see a character with the same name as was on her old yearbooks!