Kleiner Perkins partner emeritus Ray Lane took the stand on Monday in Ellen Pao’s gender discrimination suit against the firm, where he talked about his handling of Pao and Trae Vassallo’s complaints against Ajit Nazre, a former Kleiner partner.
Pao and Nazre had a “brief intimate relationship” in 2006, according to Pao’s trial brief. Pao alleges Nazre retaliated against her at Kleiner after she ended the relationship.
Nazre was married during the relationship, but Pao thought he would leave his wife, Lane said.
When Pao came to him and disclosed the relationship, Lane asked her what she wanted to do.
“I thought that it should be investigated,” he said. “I thought that it should be responded to, but that it was up to her.”
Lane said Pao wanted to continue working at Kleiner, and thought Nazre should stay on as well.
“Both of them had stressed that they did not want to leave Kleiner Perkins,” he said. “My singular goal was to achieve that if that’s what they wanted.”
Although Lane tried to create an atmosphere where both Pao and Nazre could continue working at the firm, he was sceptical about the prospects of that working out.
“You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube,” he said.
Lane suggested Nazre be inclusive with Pao and over-communicate with her while they worked together in the firm’s green investment group. He also suggested Pao and Nazre have a one-on-one lunch to discuss their continued working relationship.
“I thought the human tendency would be for them to go in their corners and try not to work together,” he said. “That is impractical at a firm our size.”
Pao later moved from the green group to Kleiner’s digital growth fund. Alan Exelrod, Pao’s attorney, claimed that was because Pao no longer wanted to work with Nazre.
“Two very different incidents”
Lane also testified about an incident involving another female partner, Trae Vassallo, who testified last week that Nazre sexually harassed her. In late 2o11, Vassallo came to Lane with her complaint about Nazre.
Though Vassallo’s claim came after Pao’s relationship with Nazre, Lane sought to draw a distinction between the two.
“I viewed these as two very different incidents,” he said. He said not immediately launching an investigation Vassallo’s claims was a “mistake.”
Last week, Vassallo testified Nazre had invited her to a dinner in New York to introduce her to someone that would help one of her ventures, but that person never showed up. After the dinner, Nazre came to Vassallo’s hotel room door in a bathrobe and slippers. Vassallo told Nazre she wasn’t interested. “I eventually pushed him out and closed the door,” she said.
According to Vassallo’s testimony, when told Lane about the New York incident, he said “you should be flattered” in jest, and asked her what she wanted him to do.
But on the stand today, Lane agreed with Pao’s attorney, Alan Exelrod, that the firm should have immediately launched an investigation into Vassallo’s claim. “I made a mistake,” he said. “It was my mistake.”
Lane said he held off on launching an investigation at Vassallo’s request.
“I was concerned about Trae,” he said. “I asked Trae if she would like me to start a formal investigation. She said no.”
Lane also said he didn’t want to lose Nazre as a partner in December 2011. But Nazre’s termination was accelerated when Vassallo submitted a letter to the firm’s partners outlining what had happened in New York.
Kleiner then decided to launch an investigation into Vassallo’s claim that resulted in Nazre’s dismissal from the firm.