Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, a major Silicon Valley VC firm with investments that include Zynga and Groupon, is being sued by one of its investment partners, Ellen Pao.It’s a bombshell lawsuit filled with many damaging claims.
The nut of the lawsuit is this:
“KPCB discriminates against [Ellen Pao] and other women by failing to promote them comparably to men, by compensating them less than men through lower salary, bonus and carried interest, by restricting the number of investments that women are allowed to make as compared to men, by failing to include junior women from meetings and discussions, by failing to provide equivalent sponsorship of women as of men, by failing to include junior women comparably to junior men in the interview process, and by failing to provide opportunities for visibility and success inside and outside the firm for women as compared to men.”
In response to the suit, Kleiner issued the following statement, “Following a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the firm believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter.”
Here are some of the biggest claims from the lawsuit:
- Pao alleges that former partner, Ajit Nazre, made “inappropriate sexual approaches” during a trip to Germany in 2006. She “rebuffed his advances.” As a result, he was “brusque” and “distant”.
- Nazre allegedly continued to press her on a sexual relationship, and “falsely told her that his wife had left him,” according to the suit. When she refused his advances, he allegedly, “engaged in offensive, obstructionist and difficult behaviour.”
- However, “eventually succumbed to Mr. Nzare’s insistence on sexual relations on two or three occasions.” When she stopped the relationship, he “engaged in retaliation,” says the suit.
- She claims her reaction to his unwanted advances and her gender caused her to be passed over for promotions.
- Pao’s lawsuit says Randy Komisar, a Senior Partner, told her that “the personalities of women do not lead to success at KPCB, because women are quiet.”
- Komisar was also allegedly given the board seat at one of the companies Pao worked with. According to the suit, KPCB partner John Doerr told her she deserved the seat, but Komisar “needed a win,” so he got it.
- In addition, Pao alleges that females in the firms were often left out of dinner meetings held by male counterparts. She says women weren’t invited because they would “kill the buzz.”
John Doerr, Bing Gordon, Ray Lane, Chi-Hua Chien and Ted Schlein are all named in the suit.
Pao is being represented by Rudy, Exelrod, Zieff & Lowe LLC. The news was first reported by TechCrunch.
Here’s KPCB’s full statement on the matter:
In response to a discrimination complaint filed in the Superior Court of San Francisco by Ellen Pao, Christina Lee, a Kleiner Perkins spokesperson, stated the Firm regrets that the situation is being litigated publicly and had hoped the two parties could have reached resolution, particularly given Pao’s 7-year history with the firm. Following a thorough independent investigation of the facts, the firm believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend the matter. The Firm has been a diversity pioneer in its industry and was one of the first venture capital firms to hire women as partners. The number of women partners at the firm is one of the highest within the venture capital arena and the firm has actively supported women in all respects.
Here’s the suit.