Kleiner Perkins: 'Facts will determine outcome of discrimination suit'

Partner says VC firm "confident that we will prevail"

Calling the last several days a difficult time at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, veteran partner John Doerr posted a statement about a fellow employee's gender discrimination lawsuit on the venture capital firm's website on Wednesday (May 30).

"It is not easy to stand by as false allegations are asserted against the firm, especially because legal constraints prevent us from responding fully at this time. But we have been heartened to hear from so many people -- including many women -- who have reached out to convey their support," he wrote.

Mr. Doerr wrote that an independent investigation had concluded that the allegations were without merit and that the Menlo Park firm doesn't discriminate against women. "In the end, facts -- not unfounded claims -- will determine the outcome of the suit filed against us. We will vigorously defend our reputation and are confident we will prevail."

The statement encouraged those judging the company to consider its track record on supporting female entrepreneurs. According to its website, 12 of the 49 partners at Kleiner Perkins are women, which it claims is "the most of any leading venture capital firm."

The company has retained Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, a law firm specializing in defending corporations against discrimination claims.

Ellen Pao, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, filed the lawsuit on May 10 after working at the firm for seven years. The suit alleges that the firm discriminates against women for promotions and compensation, and retaliated against Ms. Pao after she complained about sexual harassment.

After finishing an Ivy League education that included both a law degree and MBA from Harvard, Ms. Pao started working at Kleiner Perkins in 2005, according to the complaint. A peer with longer tenure at the firm began pressuring her for sex, she alleges, and after eight months she briefly gave in.

The lawsuit claims that after she ended the relationship he retaliated by leaving her out of business projects. The man left the firm in 2011 after the firm conducted an independent investigation into allegations made by other women, according to the lawsuit.

The complaint also alleges that a senior partner made an inappropriate advance to Ms. Pao and later participated in her performance reviews, to her detriment.

After hearing of complaints from three administrative assistants about harassment and discrimination in 2007, she repeatedly approached upper management for help without success, according to the lawsuit. Instead Ms. Pao perceived a pattern of retaliation as she was passed over for promotion, networking events and raises, and given delayed or biased performance reviews.

The complaint details specific instances of exclusion, including a company ski trip in January 2012 and several dinners to which only male employees were invited. The host of one event reportedly said that inviting women would "kill the buzz."

In March, three men who had been employed for less time at Kleiner Perkins than Ms. Pao were promoted while no women received similar advancement, according to the lawsuit.

Neither Ms. Pao nor her attorney, Alan Exelrod -- known for winning a landmark sexual harassment case in 1994 -- was available for comment before deadline.


Like this comment
Posted by incredulous
a resident of Portola Valley: Westridge
on May 31, 2012 at 11:23 pm

Okay let me get this clear--I want to make sure I read this right (since I have only a degree from one ivy league school, maybe I'm not clear)--K-P is BRAGGING cause 12 women are partners out of 49????? Really?? Now we're going to hear about how she's bitter and this never happens and she's a "b" word and let me think, she's a "buzz kill" and she complains and no no don't tell me, these men NEVER discriminate or leave women's just they are better skiers than she is and they just invited their friends and women don't really like to go to these events anyway....I think I could come up with 1000 more bizarre ways men justify the sexism in the work place. Just think if this was your daughter what would you think? I bet something different. Unless you just think your daughter should marry a guy with a good career in front of him. Give me a break. It's such an old boring story. The sickening part is that her career in the sexist valley is over for sure. Oh wait I forgot the stories about the 7 successful women super stars in the valley will be trotted out...can't wait! Next chapter please! Oh yes, the next thing is I must be a "b" word bitter woman...nope neither.

Like this comment
Posted by Interested
a resident of another community
on Jun 1, 2012 at 12:09 am

Ms. Pao may be entirely correct. There is not nearly enough information for me, unlike Incredulous, to form any kind of judgement. However this statement really concerns me..."A peer with longer tenure at the firm began pressuring her for sex, she alleges, and after eight months she briefly gave in.. I have to believe that Ms. Pao knows the difference between a "peer" and a "superior"..Something smells in Norway...and it ain't the fish.......

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