Uber investor Shervin Pishevar has filed a lawsuit over an alleged ‘smear campaign’ against him

Shervin Pishevar Steve Jennings/Getty Images
  • Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar is suing a GOP political opposition research group that he alleges was conducting a smear campaign against him.
  • The suit claims that the company, Definers Public Affairs, has been calling up reporters and spreading lies about him such as that he’s a Russian agent or that he’s made a payoff to settle a sexual assault claim.
  • Pishevar, an outspoken supporter of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, has recently threatened to file a lawsuit over some of Uber’s decisions since Kalanick left, but this lawsuit is a different beast altogether.

Venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar, best known for backing Uber and his role as executive chairman of Hyperloop One, filed a lawsuit late Monday night in which he claims a company known for doing GOP political opposition research was conducting a “smear campaign” against him.

The company is called Definers Public Affairs. It was founded in 2015 by two men who worked on Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign together, Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder, both of whom Pishevar has named in the suit as individuals as well. The company recently opened a Silicon Valley office with the focus of helping Valley companies deal with things in the political world, regulatory issues, investigations into Russia ads, that sort of thing.

Pishevar alleges in his suit that Definers, and Rhoades in particular, has been calling up reporters and spreading damaging stories about him in order to tempt reporters into researching those tips and spreading these stories.

He says that word of some of the stories has gotten back to him. Among the stories Pishevar says are being spread about him: calling him an agent of Russia, a supposed “incident with a prostitute in Europe,” allegations that he settled a claim for sexual assault in London, that he was unable to raise additional money for his venture investment fund and that he had raised money from investors to invest in Uber but put it “into his own pockets” instead.

Pishevar says in the lawsuit that all of the above stories are lies. The defamation lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that Definers is spreading such stories in the service of Pishevar’s business competitors.

‘Claims are delusional’

Definers is available for hire to conduct research on business competitors in Silicon Valley, but Tim Miller, who opened the company’s Silicon Valley office, calls Pishevar’s accusations “delusional.”

“Mr. Pishevar’s accusations against Definers are completely false. His claims are delusional, we have never engaged in any of the actions he outlined in this complaint, and Definers has never done any work with regards to Mr Pishevar,” he told Business Insider.

Perhaps the weirdest thing in the suit, other than the list of rumours that Pishevar believes are being spread about him, is that he mentions Uber’s head of PR Jill Hazelbaker by name.

Hazelbaker came to the Silicon Valley PR game by way of politics, having worked on a number of GOP political campaigns, including John McCain’s presidential run.

The suit mentions that she once worked with Pounder on that campaign. The mention of her name is odd because he doesn’t accuse her of anything other than knowing Pounds. Hazelbaker had no comment about the lawsuit.

Pishevar is also known as an outspoken advocate for former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, even after he resigned. Pishevar threatened to sue over Uber’s still in-the-works funding deal with Softbank, which, if finalised, would eliminate the extra voting rights of Kalanick and other early investors and limit Kalanick’s influence as an Uber board member.

So far, that lawsuit has not yet materialised but this one has.