Gen. James Mattis, Donald Trump’s pick to head the Pentagon, went to the mat for Theranos, report says

When a military official raised concerns about Theranos‘ technology, the firm’s CEO Elizabeth Holmes appealed to Gen. James Mattis to intervene, according to a report from the Washington Post.

Now Mattis, who is a director at Theranos, the medical testing firm, is President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for Secretary of Defense.

Mattis’ ties to the company, both up to 2013 when he left active duty and after as a Theranos board member, are raising questions.

Is a member of the president’s cabinet allowed to serve on company boards? Currently, Mattis is listed on Theranos’ site as a board member.

And more pointedly, while in service, did Mattis use his influence in an undue way to quash an inquiry into the company that may have pointed to problems earlier than when they ultimately emerged?

A 2011 meeting between Holmes and Mattis, who was commander of the U.S. Central Command, led the military to look into testing Theranos’ technology in combat areas, according to e-mails obtained by the Post.

In emails with Holmes shortly after, Mattis wrote:

I’ve met with my various folks and we’re kicking this into overdrive to try to field your lab in the near term. Please don’t hesitate to call me or to send an email if you sense that we need to talk.

Again, my thanks for what you’re doing and for your willingness to work with us on this. I’m convinced that your invention will be a game-changer for us and I want it to be given the opportunity for a demonstration in-theater soonest.

But before a field test could happen, a military official launched a formal inquiry to regulators — without warning Theranos, the Post said.

Holmes appealed directly to Mattis to intervene and Mattis sent an email to military officials soon after:

I have tried to get this device tested in theater asap, legally and ethically…This appears to be relatively straight-forward yet we’re a year into this and not yet deployed.

The field demonstration of Theranos’ technology never took place, according to the Post.

Soon after he left the military, Mattis asked a defense department ethics official about possibly serving on Theranos’ board. He was told he could but with a caveat:

Absent additional information regarding your personal or substantial participation in potential procurement of the Afghanistan pilot test of the Theranos device … I further advise you not to represent Theranos before the DoD [Department of Defense] and DON [Department of the Navy] on that particular matter for the lifetime of the matter.

Mattis joined Theranos’ board in 2013.

In other Theranos news, the company announced that in January, it is retiring its “board of counselors” that included former Secs. of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger.

In addition, Daniel Warmenhoven, the former CEO of NetApp, is joining the board, replacing Riley Bechtel, chairman of construction giant Bechtel Corp.

“Mr. Warmenhoven has deep experience in building great companies,” Holmes said in a statement. “His insights will be extremely useful as we now work to commercialize our miniLab and proprietary software systems.”

Photo: Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)


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  • Buy big names, buy big influence. Mattis should know that if the product is no good, any campaign is destined to fail, and one’s reputation ends up being ruined.