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More bad blood for Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes — this time with her own attorneys

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and former chief executive of Theranos, leaves federal court Wednesday in San Jose, Calif. (Michael Short/Bloomberg News)

Elizabeth Holmes once topped a Forbes list of the world’s youngest self-made female billionaires. Now she allegedly can’t pay her legal fees.

Three Cooley LLP lawyers representing the embattled Theranos founder in a lawsuit want off the case, writing in court papers filed Sept. 30 that Holmes hasn’t paid them in more than a year.

“Further, given Ms. Holmes’s current financial situation, Cooley has no expectation that Ms. Holmes will ever pay it for its services as her counsel,” Stephen Neal, John Dwyer and Jeffrey Lombard wrote in the filing, which was first reported by the Mercury News. “Thus, it is unfair and unreasonable to require Cooley to continue representing Ms. Holmes in this action.”

Holmes dropped out of Stanford University at 19 to form Theranos in 2003. The Palo Alto company promised to revolutionize health care by requiring only a pinprick of blood to run hundreds of tests. At its peak, it was valued at $9 billion and had a partnership with Walgreens.

The company’s decline began in 2015, when a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed that its machines weren’t giving accurate results. By last year, Theranos had been shuttered and Holmes indicted on fraud charges that could carry up to 20 years in prison. The downfall of the once-celebrated start-up and its CEO has been chronicled in a documentary, a podcast and a best-selling book.

In the class-action civil case, filed in U.S. District Court in Phoenix, consumers accuse Holmes, Theranos and Walgreens of perpetuating a “massive fraud.” They also allege Theranos and Walgreens medically battered them by taking blood draws under “false pretenses.” Holmes, Theranos and Walgreens are fighting the allegations.

The judge has not yet made a ruling on the Cooley lawyers’ request to withdraw.

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