Facing Legal Bills, Ellen Pao Appeals Sex Discrimination Loss to Kleiner Perkins

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

It has been just two months since a San Francisco jury of six women and six men ruled against former junior partner Ellen Pao on all four of Pao’s claims of gender discrimination and retaliation against the prestigious Silicon Valley venture capital firm of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers. Facing what appears to be over a million dollars in legal bills, Ellen Pao’s attorneys filed a Notice of Appeal Monday in San Francisco Superior Court that she will appeal her suit against Kleiner Perkins.

Pao’s legal team now has 40 days to file a formal appeal. Since Judge Harold Kahn ruled in favor of Pao on a string of court motions before the trial, legal experts suggest that her appeal will rest on motions filed before the trial began.

As Breitbart News has reported, it took the jury a shockingly short deliberation for such a highly-visible 5-week gender discrimination trial to bounce Pao’s claims against top-tier VC firm that had been an early investor in tech companies such as Google and Amazon.

The salacious lawsuit, filed in 2012, has been a lightning rod for Jesse Jackson and other diversity camp followers to disparage the “backward culture” of Silicon Valley. Hoping to unmask Silicon Valley’s supposedly greedy venture capitalists, the case seemed like a slam-dunk with larger implications regarding the future of women and minorities in Silicon Valley; which is dominated by a ratio of 70 percent white and Asian men to only 30 percent women.

But the jury ruled that Pao’s gender was not a “substantial” reason the firm did not promote her and later terminated her employment. Pao’s claim–that she was denied a promotion and subsequently fired after ending a brief affair with a senior partner–seemed to get no credibility with the jury. Her attorneys’ effort to paint KPCB as a boys’ club where male senior partners hit on female junior partners likewise failed to convince.

Ellen Pao had asked for $16 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages of up to $144 million. But the case morphed over the course of the trial, as the Kleiner Perkins defense team led by Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Lynne Hermle obliterated most of Pao’s alleged victimization.

The biggest “gotcha moment” turned out to be Hermle’s ability to flip the script on the plaintiff team’s assertion that Pao and two female colleagues were paid less than three male colleagues with similar qualifications. Using a graph, Hermle demonstrated to the jury that Pao earned more than all three of the men during her entire tenure at KPCB. In 2011, Pao made $380,000 a year, not including a bonus, while one male colleague made almost $100,000 less.

According to Steve Sammut, who was elected by the jury to speak after the trial, what really stood out for him in voting against Pao were the Kleiner Perkins performance reviews. Pao’s “Areas for Improvement” stayed the same, whereas remarks for other Kleiner employees tended to change.

Sammut thought Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe partner Lynne Hermle was a stronger lawyer during cross-examination than Pao’s attorneys, Alan Exelrod and Therese Lawless. When asked whether there was much talk among the jurors about the broader cultural significance of the case for the venture capital world, Sammut said there was none. “We never talked about who was waiting for us or what it was going to do to the venture capital world in general,” he said. “We focused on this case.”


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