Joe Lonsdale, the technology executive best known as the co-founder of Palantir and a partner of venture capital firm Formation 8, has been accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other charges in a civil lawsuit filed this week in San Francisco. Formation 8 is also named as a defendant in the suit.
Reached today for comment, Lonsdale categorically denied all of the claims and said he is preparing to file a countersuit for defamation.
The lawsuit, which is embedded in full in a Scribd document below, was filed January 27 in the United States District Court in San Francisco, in the Northern District of California. Elise Clougherty, whom the suit describes as a former Formation 8 intern and current resident of Virginia, is named as the plaintiff. (TechCrunch is publishing the name of the plaintiff since the suit does not use a pseudonym such as Jane Doe. When reached today, Clougherty’s legal counsel confirmed that the plaintiff is not requesting anonymity.)
In a detailed statement sent today to friends and business associates, which was obtained by TechCrunch and included in a separate Scribd document embedded below, Lonsdale vigorously denied any wrongdoing and said the lawsuit is “a malicious campaign of lies.” He added that he plans to file a defamation suit against the accuser in federal court this week.
According to the lawsuit, Lonsdale and Clougherty began a romantic relationship in February 2012 after becoming linked in a mentorship program at Stanford, where the plaintiff was an undergraduate and Lonsdale was an alumnus.
The suit alleges that the relationship became abusive and resulted in the plaintiff being “damaged and injured physically, emotionally, and financially,” the suit says, adding that she is currently suffering from “pain, anxiety, depression, severe emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, and PTSD, as well as loss of health, future relationships, income, employment, and future career benefits and earning potential.”
Formation 8 is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, since the plaintiff says she served as an intern there during the summer of 2012 and that the firm was aware of the alleged abuse. However, Lonsdale and Formation 8 deny that Clougherty was ever employed at the firm.
Clougherty, who is represented by Hutchinson Black and Cook in Boulder, L. Lin Wood in Atlanta, and the Liu Law Firm in San Francisco, is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages of at least $75,000.
Lonsdale’s lawyer, Kristen Dumont of Goodwin Procter, sent the following statement:
“This lawsuit is a vile collection of lies and a transparent attempt to destroy the reputation and good name of Joe Lonsdale. To borrow the words Ms. Clougherty used in a text to a friend, this is a ‘take down scheme.’ The overwhelming and unequivocal evidence — which includes hundreds of emails from Ms. Clougherty herself and testimony from her close friend — will exonerate Mr. Lonsdale. For nearly two years, Mr. Lonsdale has been eagerly waiting to tell the truth and to fight these defamatory and outlandish allegations. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant and we welcome this fight and our day in court, where facts trump fiction.”
Ms. Clougherty’s legal team declined to provide any additional statement regarding the suit. Update: Ms. Clougherty’s counsel has now provided us with the following comment: “Our client is no longer intimidated by Mr. Lonsdale and his threats, nor is she intimidated by his crafted PR statement.”
This is a very sensitive case with very serious and detailed allegations on both sides. We will continue to update as more information becomes available.
The full lawsuit:
Formation 8 Joe Lonsdale Lawsuit
Joe Lonsdale Personal Statement Email