VC Shervin Pishevar sues GOP opposition research firm for ‘smear campaign’

Sherpa Capital co-founder Shervin Pishevar has filed a lawsuit against Definers Public Affairs, a Republican opposition research firm that he believes is being paid to spread rumors about him.

The Uber investor and Hyperloop One co-founder is accusing former Mitt Romney presidential campaign manager Matthew Rhoades and his business partner, Joseph Pounder, of aiming to convince reporters of “false and disparaging statements.” There’s a list of alleged misstatements, including that Pishevar is an agent of the Russian government and that he settled a sexual assault claim in London.

According to the lawsuit, Pishevar believes “defendants have been retained by competitors or other business adversaries of Mr. Pishevar to orchestrate and implement a malicious smear campaign, apparently designed to incite false, defamatory, and highly damaging chatter and gossip about Mr. Pishevar amongst reporters and strategically targeted individuals in Mr. Pishevar’s professional and personal networks, such as investors in Uber.”

The suit acknowledges that it is not illegal to conduct factual research, but is instead accusing Definers of slander, “in the hopes that false facts find their way to reporters and ultimately to the public.”

Tim Miller, who’s listed as a partner at Definers, called the claims “delusional,” in a tweet:

Miller emailed us the following statement. “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 his complaint, and Definers has never done any work with regards to Mr. Pishevar.”

Pishevar’s lawsuit cites a Recode story from earlier this year, which talks about Definers Public Affairs setting up shop in Oakland. According to the story, Definers’ mission is “to arm companies with ammunition to attack their corporate rivals, sway their government overseers and shape the public’s opinion on controversial issues.”

On its website, Definers says it “helps corporations, trade associations, political campaigns and issue-based clients run smarter campaigns using cutting-edge research and communications strategies and tactics.”

It’s not clear why Pishevar believes that he’s been the target of Definers. But he has been a vocal supporter of Democrats, including former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. He hosted a Clinton fundraiser with actor George Clooney at his home in San Francisco last year.

Pishevar, who previously served on Uber’s board of advisors, recently filed a motion to intervene in Benchmark Capital’s lawsuit against co-founder Travis Kalanick. The case later moved to arbitration.