Speaking Out is a new column surveying activism across the web each week.


In a must-read Elle feature that quickly went viral on Twitter, writer Stephanie Clifford tells the story of Christie Smythe, a normal woman who blew up her world for a chance at love with one of the worlds most-hated finance dudes, “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli. Smythe describes, among many other crazy details, her first kiss with Shrkreli in jail, in a room that smelled like chicken wings. 

Shkreli was sentenced to seven years in federal prison in 2018 after his pharmaceutical company acquired the lifesaving drug Daraprim, commonly used in the treatment of AIDS-related illnesses. He then immediately jacked up the price of a single dose from $13.50 to $750. On top of the price gouging, his smirking court appearances and trollish social media presence earned him nearly universal scorn. 

But not all the attention he received was negative. He’s courted numerous women from prison and has inspired fan accounts on Instagram, Reddit threads, and even a Shkreli For President Facebook page. 

Unfortunately, Shrkeli’s price-jacking practices are not all that unusual. In 2016, Mylan Pharmaceuticals faced public furor when they raised the price of a two pack of Epipens—used to save people from deadly allergy attacks—from $100 to $609. In 2015, Bill Ackman’s hedge fund Pershing Square teamed with notorious pharma price gougers Valeant Pharmaceuticals. Ackman eventually sold his shares in Valeant, but not before spending years defending pharmaceutical pricing practices.

If you were fascinated by the Shrkeli drama, I highly recommend Erin Lee Carr’s episode of the Netflix series Dirty Money, “Drug Short.” She follows Fahmi Quadir, one of the few women in an executive position in the male dominated field of finance, as Quadir unravels the Ackman bet and exposes Valeant’s price-gouging tactics. (For years they had been acquiring smaller pharma companies for their patents on specialty life-saving drugs, hiking up the prices, and reaping the profits at the expense of human lives.) 

It all sounds very complicated, but in Carr’s hands it’s an exciting, informative and infuriating episode of television about greed and wealth.

You can also check out Carr on Dax Shepherd’s podcast, Armchair Experts, to hear about Carr’s book and other films.


Wee Stimulus

On the opposite end of the financial spectrum, people are talking about the new stimulus plan that will allow for a one-time payment of $600 to go out to qualifying Americans. The consensus? The amount is not nearly enough. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by rally+rise (@rallyandrise)

On CNBC’s Making It, Alicia Adamcyz points out that most college-age dependents are still not eligible to receive the stimulus check, and examines the financial burden that creates.

While the amount isn’t plentiful, the memes are. 

@finessegawds

What $600 stimulus check is looking like vs my bills right now

♬ original sound - Finesse Gawds

Dan Price, the CEO of Seattle-based Gravity Payments, who cut his salary so that all his employees could make a minimum annual salary of $70,000, has weighed in throughout the stimulus talks about the nature of PPP Loans and the direct stimulus payments. 


Follow the Leaders

To learn more about financial literacy and topics like fair wages, predatory financial instruments, and the labor movement, here are some suggested follows.

Kim Kelley 

Rebecca Jarvis

Dean Starkman 

Mary Childs, host of the excellent podcast Planet Money.