Ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has described a lawsuit against him as a “public and personal attack” in a court filing, which we first saw via BuzzFeed News.
Kalanick filed his response late on Thursday to the suit brought by Benchmark Capital, an early investor in Uber suing him for alleged fraud, breach of contract, and fiduciary duty.
The filing said: “Benchmark Capital Partners initiated this action as part of its public and personal attack on Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber.” It accused Benchmark of “secretly planning” to oust Kalanick shortly after his parents were involved in a boating accident, resulting in the death of his mother.
“It executed its plan at the most shameful of times: immediately after Kalanick experienced a horrible personal tragedy,” the filing said.
Kalanick resigned as CEO in late July, after a number of scandals blew up around the company, but still sits on Uber’s board. Benchmark Capital also holds a board seat, and says it controls 20% of voting rights.
The suit revolves around a decision in 2016 to expand Uber’s board of voting directors from eight to 11, with Kalanick controlling who had those seats. Benchmark claimed it would never have allowed the three extra seats if it had known about Kalanick’s “gross mismanagement and other misconduct at Uber”, citing scandals such as Uber’s “Greyball” software to deceive authorities, and an executive apparently accessing a rape victim’s medical files in India. Benchmark wants that 2016 decision rescinded, so pushing Kalanick from Uber’s board.
Kalanick’s filing gives a brief history of Uber, and a timeline of how Kalanick’s July resignation came about.
It said a week-and-a-half after the funeral of Kalanick’s mother, two Benchmark partners went to his hotel room and demanded he step down. “They threatened to launch a public campaign against him if he refused,” the filing said. And it said Benchmark’s allegations of fraud were “threadbare.”
The suit is just one illustration of the massive turmoil at Uber. The company is fighting a separate lawsuit against Google’s self-driving arm Waymo, where Google has accused Uber of stealing its technology. It’s also trying to shift its internal culture after former employee Susan Fowler went public with allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination. Amid this and many other problems, Uber’s board is also trying to find a new CEO.
Meanwhile, another Uber board member is trying to squeeze Benchmark out of the company because of its lawsuit. Shervin Pishevar wants to buy out Benchmark, describing the lawsuit as “holding the company hostage” in a leaked letter.