Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers has been sued by Ellen Pao, one of its investment partners, over gender discrimination and acts of retaliation that she has allegedly encountered during her seven years at the firm.
Before we get further into this, we need to note that we are only going to present the available information on the case. The story is breaking. Right now, the majority of the information is provided by the plaintiff. The following statement is what we have received from Kleiner:
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.
We’ve uploaded the 19-page lawsuit in its entirety here at the very bottom of this post, and below we’ve excerpted some of the key allegations:
“For Valentine’s Day 2007 Senior Partner Randy Komisar came into [Pao's] office and gave her a book entitled ‘The Book of Longing’ by Leonard Cohen, inscribed with a handwritten note from Mr. Komisar to Plaintiff. The book contains many sexual drawings and poems with strong sexual content. At about the same time, Mr. Komisar asked [Pao] out to a Saturday night dinner, telling Plaintiff that his wife would be out of town.”
Pao did not accept the invitation, the suit says.
“Ray Lane pressured [Pao] to drop the matter because of Mr. Lane’s close ties with and mentorship of Mr. Nazre. Though Plaintiff had formally complained about Mr. Nazre’s behavior, Mr. Lane encouraged [Pao] to engage in a personal relationship with Mr. Nazre and even to marry him. Mr. Lane said, however, that in such case, either Plaintiff or Mr. Nazre would have to leave the firm because two spouses could not work together at KPCB.”
“In early 2011, KPCB partners led by Chi-Hua Chien organized a dinner event at the San Francisco home of one of the partners. The dinner was for select KPCB partners and leading executives at KPCB-funded companies, as well as leading executives of other companies KPCB thought were influential. Only male KPCB partners and male executives were invited and attended. Mr. Chien deliberately excluded all KPCB women from the event solely on the basis of their gender. Mr. Chien organized a second all-male dinner at the same partner’s home in August 2011. Women were excluded for the same reason. At a weekly Digital Group partner meeting partner’s complaint, Mr. Chien replied that women were not invited because they would ‘kill the buzz’.”
Here is the suit in its entirety:
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) is a well known Silicon Valley venture capital firm, due in large part to their past success. They were early investors in many significant companies, including Amazon, AOL, Compaq, Electronic Arts, Google, Intuit, Macromedia, Netscape, Segway, and Sun Microsystems. The name of the firm comes from the four founding partners: Eugene Kleiner, Tom Perkins, Frank J. Caufield, and Brook Byers. In March 2008, KPCB announced the iFund, a $100M investment initiative focused on ideas...