As I’ve been pointing out for a couple of years, we constantly read news stories out of Silicon Valley about male chauvinist brogrammers oppressing women whose only dream in life since they were little girls has been to code. And yet, upon inspection of the details, another word often comes to mind: adventuress.
From the NYT:
By DAVID STREITFELD FEB. 22, 2015
SAN FRANCISCO — Many women in technology believe Silicon Valley is stuck in the past. They say they are rarely hired, promoted or taken seriously, and are confronted on a daily basis by sexism and harassment. They feel demeaned and discouraged.
Now, in a high-profile suit set to go to trial this week, a jury will pass judgment about whether one woman suffered discrimination. The proceedings could resonate widely: A guilty verdict will be billed as a sweeping indictment of the high-tech world, while a dismissal might supply ammunition to those who feel gender issues are being overplayed.
The accuser is Ellen Pao, who worked at one of the valley’s most prominent venture capital firms, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. At the center of the suit is John Doerr, a legendary investor who was Ms. Pao’s boss and, according to court papers, practically a father to her. How the man with the Midas touch let his very proud, very image-conscious shop become embroiled in scandal is a question lurking behind the suit.
Because he’s the only White Man involved …
Ms. Pao says a married colleague pressured her into an affair and then retaliated against her when she broke it off.
Keep in mind that Ms. Pao broke it off after Mr. Nazre failed to divorce Mrs. Nazre. You might think that Ms. Pao’s predation upon Mrs. Nazre’s marriage might be an issue, but that’s missing the point, which is that John Doerr is a deep-pocketed rich white man and therefore must pay. Woman v. woman conflicts, while fascinating to other women, don’t fit well within the dominant feminist legal and media frameworks, so they are of no serious interest.
When she complained, she says she was discriminated against and got poor reviews, resulting ultimately in her dismissal. She accuses Kleiner of treating her “despicably, maliciously, fraudulently and oppressively” from “an improper and evil motive amounting to malice.”
Kleiner fired back last week in a scorched-earth response filed in civil court here, saying the affair was consensual and there was no discrimination. Ms. Pao did not succeed at Kleiner, the firm said, because she “lacked the ability to lead others, build consensus and be a team player, which is crucial to a successful career as a venture capital senior investing partner.”
No matter whose arguments prevail, the trial promises a rare unscripted peek at Silicon Valley, where every interview tends to be overseen by a publicist. Court papers show it to be a place where colleagues become intimately involved, break up messily, work incessantly and promote themselves remorselessly — a place, in short, like almost everywhere else in America, although perhaps a little more amorous. The couple first had sex “at a work event,” the papers say.
Ms. Pao is seeking as much as $16 million in damages to replace the income she says she never had a chance to make at Kleiner.
Since the suit was filed three years ago, Silicon Valley’s treatment of women has become a major flash point, as nearly every month brings new accusations of men behaving badly. Critics charge that start-up entrepreneurs feel entitled to act like jerks, and that the venture capitalists continue to pour money in because they are afraid of missing the next big thing.
A case in point is Snapchat, the disappearing-message service. Last spring, emails that its chief executive wrote a few years ago to his Stanford fraternity brothers surfaced. They were contemptuous of women to a degree that is unquotable in a newspaper. He apologized after the emails became public.
A few months later, Snapchat raised a new investment round valuing it at $10 billion. Among those supplying cash was Kleiner Perkins.
Note that Snatchsnap wouldn’t be worth a dime if young women didn’t provide it with so much free content to monetize by taking pictures of their more intimate regions.
There is an uproar over a lack of diversity in tech, highlighted most recently by Jesse L. Jackson Sr. and his Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s campaign for more inclusiveness. But the clubby world of venture funding remains almost exclusively male.
The total number of female partners at venture capital firms has declined to 6 percent from 10 percent in 1999, according to a report last fall from the Diana Project, a research effort on female entrepreneurs. …
Her original complaint, filed in May 2012, has already become part of Silicon Valley lore. It said that a Kleiner partner did not invite her or any other women to an important dinner because “women kill the buzz”; that another Kleiner partner inappropriately gave her Leonard Cohen’s sex-drenched “Book of Longing”; and that this same partner told her “the personalities of women” did not lead to success at Kleiner “because women are quiet.”
A Princeton-trained engineer and Harvard-trained lawyer who has deep experience in the technology field, Ms. Pao first came under media scrutiny when she married Alphonse Fletcher Jr. in 2007, after her affair with the colleague, Ajit Nazre, ended.
Ah, Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher of the Fabulous Fletcher Brothers. From Wikipedia:
Born Alphonse Fletcher, Jr.
Residence The Dakota
… Known for Hedge fund management, fund bankruptcy, Kidder Peabody discrimination lawsuit, Dakota discrimination lawsuit, Philanthropy
Spouse(s) Ellen K. Pao (2007–present)
Relatives Geoffrey S. Fletcher (brother)
Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher, Jr. (born 1965) was a hedge fund manager and founder of the Fletcher Foundation. His fund is in bankruptcy and he is accused of civil fraud.
He began his career as a quantitative equity trader at Bear Stearns and later worked at Kidder, Peabody & Co. Fletcher, who is African American, sued Kidder Peabody for racial discrimination. Although his racial discrimination claims were dismissed, he eventually won an arbitration award of US$1.26 million. Fletcher has also been involved in litigation centered on a dispute with the board of The Dakota building in Manhattan, New York.
Fletcher founded Fletcher Asset Management in 1991. Fletcher’s main fund, Fletcher International, may have been insolvent since 2008 and was declared bankrupt in 2012. Money from the fund was used to fund his brother’s movie project according the bankruptcy court trustee.
Buddy’s brother Geoffrey Fletcher won a screenwriting Oscar for “Precious.”
In July 2011, FIA Leveraged Fund, an investment vehicle managed by Fletcher Asset Management, was unable to meet a redemption request totaling $144 million by three Louisiana pension fund investors. In April 2012, the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands ruled that the fund was insolvent and ordered that it be wound up (liquidated). In June 2012, Fletcher International Ltd., the Bermuda-based “master fund” for the Fletcher funds, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Manhattan.
In November 2013, Richard J. Davis, the court-appointed Chapter 11 Trustee of Fletcher International Ltd. said that his investigation shows the Fletcher fund investors were victims of a fraud perpetrated by Alphonse Fletcher and others at Fletcher Asset Management which enabled them to divert investors funds for their own benefit and that the Fletcher International Ltd. fund and its feeder funds were likely insolvent as early as 2008.
Fletcher’s main fund, Fletcher International, filed for bankruptcy in 2012. A February 2014 article in The New York Times describes Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher, Jr. as being the operator of, basically, a Ponzi scheme.
Alphonse Fletcher vs. Kidder Peabody
In 1991, after having been employed as an equity trader at Kidder Peabody, Fletcher filed a lawsuit in New York state court for employment discrimination based on race. The New York Court of Appeals ruled that Fletcher’s claim must be arbitrated. In a NYSE arbitration, Fletcher was awarded $1.26 million, and in a subsequent arbitration, the racial discrimination claim was dismissed.
In February 2011, Fletcher filed a lawsuit against the Board of Directors of The Dakota co-op building in Manhattan, where he had lived since 1992. Among other things, he alleged defamation and unlawful discrimination. In March 2010, Fletcher had signed a contract to purchase another apartment at The Dakota, intending to combine it with his current apartment. The Dakota board said it rejected Fletcher’s application based on the financial materials he provided in his application.
Fletcher Foundation and philanthropy
In 2004, Fletcher created the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor Fellowship program to financially support professors working to improve race relations at Harvard. Funded as part of the Fletcher Foundation, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard.
In 2007, Alphonse Fletcher married Ellen Pao, then a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and, along with Fletcher, a Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. Fletcher has a daughter, Matilda Pao Fletcher.
Prior to his marriage to Pao, Fletcher was in a same-sex relationship with Hobart V. “Bo” Fowlkes Jr. for over 10 years.
Fletcher and his wife have lived in the St. Regis Residence in San Francisco. Fletcher also owns homes in The Dakota in New York City. He put his Cornwall, Connecticut home up for sale in August 2013.
Alphonse Fletcher’s brother Geoffrey S. Fletcher is the first African American to win an Academy Award for screenwriting.
From the NYT again:
Mr. Fletcher, a financier, has a history of both suing and being sued. His hedge fund is bankrupt and pension funds are suing to recover their investments amid accusations of fraud. …
Ms. Pao is interim chief executive of Reddit, the news commentary website, which has also been drawn into the case. An anonymous Reddit employee sent a letter to Kleiner’s legal team, asking them to subpoena Reddit employees “for information regarding conflicts with Ellen Pao.” Such information could support the defense’s contention that the person really undermining Ms. Pao at Kleiner was Ms. Pao.
The danger in a no-holds-barred approach, of course, is that it also serves to tarnish Kleiner, which in its dot-com glory days used discretion to help perpetuate its mystique. Kleiner made fortunes in Netscape, Genentech, Amazon and Google, but has not had a huge name-brand hit recently.
Women might not kill the buzz, as Ms. Pao says she was told, but messy court cases sure do.
So, the smart money usually pays up something to make potentially messy court cases go away. It’s a living.