WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Theranos Inc and its Chief Executive Elizabeth Holmes have agreed to settle "massive fraud" charges in a deal that strips her of majority control over the embattled blood-testing company, among other penalties, U.S. regulators said on Wednesday.
As part of the settlement, the Securities and Exchange Commission said company founder Holmes must also return millions of shares to the privately held company and cannot serve as an officer or director of a public company for 10 years.
Theranos was founded in 2003 aimed at developing an innovative blood testing device with quicker results using one drop of blood. In 2015, however, its fortunes waned after Wall Street Journal reports suggested the devices were flawed and inaccurate.
The SEC's complaint alleged that the company, Holmes and Theranos' former president, Ramesh "Sunny" Balwani, "made numerous false and misleading statements in investor presentations, product demonstrations, and media articles" about its key product.
The SEC, describing the case as involving "massive fraud," said Theranos, Holmes and Balwani were charged "with 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."
Jina Choi, the head of SEC's San Francisco Regional Office, said the company's troubles offered "an important lesson for Silicon Valley."
"Innovators who seek to revolutionise and disrupt an industry must tell investors the truth about what their technology can do today, not just what they hope it might do someday," she said in a statement.
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