Sunny Balwani

(Redirected from Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani)

Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani (born c. 1965)[3] is an American convicted fraudster,[4] businessman and former president and chief operating officer of Theranos, which was a privately held health technology company founded by his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Holmes. He was the second most important figure in the collapse of Theranos and its fraudulent claims to investors, that they had devised a revolutionary blood test that used very small amounts of blood such as that from a fingerstick.[5] Starting in 2015, Theranos came under criticism in the media due to its questionable claims and practices. The company was eventually liquidated. Balwani and Holmes were criminally charged by federal authorities for operating the business as a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud investors and patients. Holmes was found guilty and sentenced to 135 months in prison on November 18, 2022.[6] On July 7, 2022, Balwani was found guilty on all counts.[7] On December 7, 2022 he was sentenced to 12 years and 11 months, plus three years of probation, with a surrender date by March 15, 2023.[8][9]

Ramesh Balwani
Bornc. 1965 (age 57–58)
Other namesSunny Balwani
EducationUniversity of Texas, Austin (BS)
University of California, Berkeley (MBA)
Stanford University
Known for
Criminal statusFree on $500,000 bail[2]
Conviction(s)(2) counts of conspiring with Holmes, (6) counts of defrauding investors and (4) counts of patient fraud (2022)
Criminal penalty12 years and 11 months
Partner(s)Elizabeth Holmes (2003–2016)

Early life and educationEdit

Ramesh Balwani was born in Sindh, Pakistan into an upper middle-class Sindhi Hindu farming family.[10][1][11] He attended Aitchison College, a prestigious boarding school in Lahore. He stayed there until 1984, receiving an education the British colonialists had designated for "youths of good family".[1] Balwani speaks Sindhi, his native language and Urdu, Hindi and English.[1]

His family eventually moved to India "because being a Hindu in a mostly all-Muslim country of Pakistan was very difficult" according to Balwani's personal lawyer.[10] Later they immigrated to the United States. In the Spring 1987 semester, Balwani began undergraduate studies at the University of Texas at Austin as an international student where he was a member of the Pakistani Students Association.[12][13][1] "He was very patriotically Pakistani," said one friend of Balwani's at the time, "He was one of us."[1] Balwani left the campus sometime after 1991 to begin working; he would eventually complete a degree, but not until 1997 with a bachelor's in information systems.[13][1]

Despite research into the question by The New York Times, it is unknown when, or why, he took the nickname "Sunny". In official documents from the late 1990s, and on divorce papers from 2002, he was known as Ramesh, his given name. By 2012, he was signing papers at Theranos as Sunny Balwani.[14]


In the 1990s, Balwani worked for Lotus Software and Microsoft. During Balwani's tenure at Microsoft he worked in sales.[1] He claims to have written thousands of lines of code; however, independent investigations could not verify this, and numerous Microsoft managers who were asked about him could not remember him.[1] While at Microsoft, he met a Japanese artist, Keiko Fujimoto, who became his wife.[1]

In late 1999 he joined as President.[1] It was a software development company that helped businesses buy and sell items via auctions over the burgeoning Internet.[13][15] In 1999, the company was purchased by Commerce One, another business development software company with a high valuation. The buyout was done entirely with stock,[13] and Balwani joined the board of the new company. In July 2000, Balwani sold his shares in Commerce One, netting nearly $40 million shortly before the company went out of business, just before the dot com bubble burst.[13][16] He later went back to school and received a Master of Business Administration from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003.[13] He spent another four years in a computer science graduate program at Stanford University, but dropped out in 2008.[13]

While enrolled at Berkeley, Balwani, who was 37 at the time, met Elizabeth Holmes, who was 18 and in her senior year of high school.[16] Holmes pursued an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering at Stanford,[16] but later dropped out to focus full-time on Theranos.[17]


Theranos Logo

Balwani joined Theranos in 2009. He ran the company's day-to-day operations as its president.[18] He had no training in biological sciences or medical devices,[18] which became an issue due to the absence of medical experts on the company's board of directors and Balwani's behavior. He was described by former Theranos employees as overbearing, uncompromising and so concerned about industrial espionage that he verged on paranoia.[16]

Within Theranos, Balwani was known for using technical terms he seemingly did not understand in what others believed were attempts to appear more knowledgeable.[16] Balwani at one point claimed "This invention [the Edison blood testing device] is going to be way up there, um, with – with the discovery of antibiotics."[18] He once misheard "end effector" (the claw or other device at the end of an automated robot's arm) as "endofactor" (a nonsense word) and repeated the error throughout a meeting, furthermore not noticing when "Endofactor" was subsequently used as a prank in a PowerPoint presentation.[16]

The Wall Street Journal reported in October 2015 that the Edison blood testing device by Theranos produced inaccurate medical diagnoses and results.[19] Edison machines frequently failed quality-control checks and produced widely varying results, a finding that was corroborated in a report released in March 2016 by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).[20] In April 2016, Theranos told regulators it had voided all test results from Edison machines for 2014 and 2015, as well as some other tests it ran on conventional machines.[20]

In January 2016, the CMS sent a warning letter to Theranos after inspecting its Newark, California, laboratory.[21] CMS regulators proposed a two-year ban on Balwani from owning or operating a blood lab after the company had not fixed problems within its California lab in March 2016.[22]

The other charges of fraud against Theranos include claiming the company's technology was being used by the U.S. Department of Defense in combat situations despite never having been used.[23]

Another false claim included claiming a $100 million revenue stream in 2014 that was actually $100,000.[24] Balwani departed from his position at Theranos in May 2016.

Legal proceedingsEdit

SEC fraud chargesEdit

In March 2018, Balwani and Holmes were charged by the SEC with securities fraud, "raising more than $700 million from investors through an elaborate, years-long fraud in which they exaggerated or made false statements about the company's technology, business, and financial performance".[25] Holmes settled the case out of court without admitting or denying wrongdoing, but Balwani is still in litigation as of 2022.[25] He says he is innocent of the charges.[25][26]

United States v. Ramesh "Sunny" BalwaniEdit

On June 15, 2018, following an investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco that lasted more than two years, a federal grand jury indicted president Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani and CEO Elizabeth Holmes on nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.[27][28] Prosecutors allege that Holmes and Balwani engaged in two criminal schemes, one to defraud investors, the other to defraud patients.[27] In March 2020, a U.S. District Court Judge ordered that Balwani will stand trial separately from Holmes. In January 2022, Holmes was found guilty on multiple counts of fraud.[29] On July 7, 2022, Balwani was found guilty on all counts and faced up to 20 years in prison and millions of dollars in restitution. He received a sentence of 12 years 11 months in prison, plus three years of probation on December 7, 2022. He will begin serving his sentence no later than March 15, 2023.[7][30]

Personal lifeEdit

He was married to Japanese artist Keiko Fujimoto.[16] Fujimoto and Balwani lived in San Francisco before their divorce in December 2002.[31]

Balwani was in a romantic relationship with Elizabeth Holmes during his tenure at Theranos.[32][33] Holmes met him in 2002 at age 18, while still in school. He was 19 years older than Holmes and married at the time.[32] Their relationship was not disclosed to their Theranos investors.[34] During her trial, Holmes testified that she had been raped while she was a student at Stanford and that she had sought solace from Balwani in the aftermath of the incident.[35][36] She also claimed that during her romantic relationship with Balwani, which lasted more than a decade, he was a very controlling figure and that he berated and sexually abused her.[36][35] In her court testimony, Holmes stated that Balwani wanted to "kill the person" she was and make her into a "new Elizabeth".[36] However, she later testified that Balwani had not forced her to make the false statements to investors, business partners, journalists and company directors that had been described in the case.[37] In court filings, Balwani and his ex-wife Fujimoto have "categorically" denied abuse allegations, calling them "false and inflammatory".[38]

Balwani was portrayed by Naveen Andrews in the 2022 miniseries The Dropout, which documented his relationship with Holmes and his role within Theranos.[39]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Raghavan, Anita (March 11, 2022). "The Other Sunny Balwani". The Information. Retrieved May 30, 2022.
  2. ^ "Former Theranos exec Ramesh Balwani convicted of fraud". Politico. July 7, 2022.
  3. ^ "Indian-American ex prez, Theranos CEO charged with 'massive fraud'". Times of India. March 15, 2018. Retrieved August 12, 2018. Balwani, 52; Carreyrou, John (June 15, 2018). "U.S. Files Criminal Charges Against Theranos's Elizabeth Holmes, Ramesh Balwani". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 12, 2018. Balwani, 53. The source in March 2018 reports him as age 52. The source in June 2018 reports him as age 53. He was born sometime between March and June 1965.
  4. ^ Wile, Rob (December 7, 2022). "Former Theranos executive Sunny Balwani gets nearly 13 years in prison for his role in company's fraud". NBC News. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  5. ^ Levine, Matt (March 14, 2018). "The Blood Unicorn Theranos Was Just a Fairy Tale". Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  6. ^ Primack, Dan (March 25, 2022). "Trial begins for ex-Theranos exec Sunny Balwani". Axios. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  7. ^ a b Rosenblatt, Joel (July 7, 2022). "Theranos ex-President Sunny Balwani found guilty of fraud". Bloomberg. Retrieved July 7, 2022.
  8. ^ Goswami, Rohan. "Former Theranos COO Sunny Balwani sentenced to nearly 13 years in prison". CNBC. Retrieved December 7, 2022.
  9. ^ "Sunny Balwani: Former Theranos executive gets nearly 13 years in prison". BBC News. December 7, 2022. Retrieved December 8, 2022.
  10. ^ a b Taylor Dunn (March 14, 2019). "When Theranos' remarkable blood-test claims began to unravel: 'The Dropout' episode 5". ABC News. Retrieved March 16, 2019. He was born in Pakistan to a Hindu family, and eventually the family had to move to India because being a Hindu in a mostly all-Muslim country of Pakistan was very difficult. (Balwani's Personal Lawyer)
  11. ^ Shameen, Assif (June 26, 2018). "Tech: The rise and fall of Elizabeth Holmes & Theranos". The Edge Markets. Archived from the original on July 2, 2018. Retrieved October 12, 2020.
  12. ^ University Of Texas At Austin (1988). Cactus Yearbook, 1988. The University of Texas at Austin. p. 317. doi:10.15781/T2G44J66H. Retrieved February 22, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g Rebecca Robbins (March 19, 2018). "Investigators say his fingerprints are all over financial crimes at Theranos. Why is he a virtual ghost?". Stat. Retrieved December 28, 2018 – via Yahoo! News.
  14. ^ David Streitfeld (November 23, 2021). "Here's what to know about Sunny Balwani". The New York Times. Retrieved March 23, 2022.
  15. ^ "Commerce One Buys Commercebid for Stock and Cash". The New York Times. Bloomberg News. November 6, 1999.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g Carreyrou, John (May 21, 2018). Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-5247-3166-3. Note: the British edition of Bad Blood incorrectly gives Balwani's country of origin as India.
  17. ^ Kim, Larry (July 1, 2015). "21 Surprising Facts About Billionaire Entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes". inc. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c "The Theranos deception". CBS News. May 20, 2018. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  19. ^ Carreyrou, John (October 16, 2015). "Hot Startup Theranos Has Struggled With Its Blood-Test Technology". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  20. ^ a b Carreyrou, John (November 18, 2016). "Theranos Whistleblower Shook the Company—and His Family". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  21. ^ Arielle Duhaime-Ross (February 1, 2016). "Here's what Theranos customers need to know". The Verge. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  22. ^ Abelson, Reed; Pollack, Andrew (April 13, 2016). "Theranos Under Fire as U.S. Threatens Crippling Sanctions". The New York Times. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  23. ^ della Cava, Marco (March 14, 2018). "She was 'the next Steve Jobs'. Now, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes is charged with fraud". USA Today. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  24. ^ Robinson, Matt; Spalding, Rebecca (March 14, 2018). "Blood, Fraud and Money Led to Theranos CEO's Fall From Grace". Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  25. ^ a b c Alexia Fernandez (March 27, 2019). "Who Is Sunny Balwani? All About Elizabeth Holmes's Ex-Boyfriend and Former Theranos President". People. Retrieved April 3, 2019 – via Yahoo! News.
  26. ^ Carolyn Y. Johnson (March 14, 2018). "SEC accuses Theranos of 'elaborate, years-long fraud'". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  27. ^ a b Mole, Beth (June 15, 2018). "Disgraced Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes indicted on criminal charges". Ars Technica. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  28. ^ "U.S. v. Elizabeth Holmes, et al". August 17, 2020. Retrieved September 11, 2020.
  29. ^ Baron, Ethan (January 3, 2022). "Elizabeth Holmes trial: Split verdict finds Theranos founder guilty of four counts of criminal fraud, not guilty on four other counts". Mercury News. Retrieved January 5, 2022.
  30. ^ "Theranos exec Sunny Balwani convicted of fraud". BBC News. July 7, 2022. Retrieved July 8, 2022.
  31. ^ Lutes, Alicia (March 18, 2019). "Elizabeth Holmes & Sunny Balwani's Confusing Relationship, Explained". Refinery29. Retrieved April 4, 2019.
  32. ^ a b Carreyrou, John (May 18, 2018). "Theranos Inc.'s Partners in Blood". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  33. ^ Carreyrou, John (March 14, 2018). "Theranos, founder Elizabeth Holmes charged with fraud by SEC". Marketwatch. Retrieved June 17, 2018.
  34. ^ Storey, Kate (March 18, 2019). "Sunny Balwani Played an Important Role in the Elizabeth Holmes Theranos Story". Esquire. Retrieved April 8, 2019.
  35. ^ a b Somerville, Heather (November 29, 2021). "Elizabeth Holmes Trial: Theranos Founder Says Balwani Berated, Abused Her". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  36. ^ a b c "Elizabeth Holmes testifies her ex-partner was controlling, sexually assaulted her". Washington Post. November 29, 2021. Retrieved November 29, 2021.
  37. ^ O'Brien, Sara Ashley; Iyengar, Rishi (November 29, 2021). "Live updates: Elizabeth Holmes testifies in her own trial". CNN.
  38. ^ Godoy, Jody (December 2021). "Theranos' Holmes cross-examined over relationship with romantic and business partner". Reuters.
  39. ^ Aurthur, Kate (March 3, 2022). "'The Dropout' Star Naveen Andrews on Sunny Balwani's Relationship With Elizabeth Holmes: 'Sunny Is Lady Macbeth!'". Variety. Retrieved March 23, 2022.

External linksEdit