Ellen Pao said she just wanted to get back to her career after losing a gender bias suit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. But there’s something else: $2.7 million.
Pao has told the elite venture-capital firm that she won’t appeal if it pays her that sum and drops a demand for almost $1 million in court costs, according to a court filing by Kleiner Friday. This, after a San Francisco jury soundly dismissed her claims in March. Kleiner rejected Pao’s terms.
The impasse may keep alive the three-year-old discrimination case that put the California technology hub’s reputation as a boys’ club squarely in the national spotlight.
Pao’s latest demand came after she said in a filing this week that she may appeal. Kleiner had offered to drop its bid for court costs if she agreed not to challenge the verdict.
“In response, Pao demanded an additional $2.7 million payment from KPCB in return for not appealing, despite the jury’s unequivocal verdict in our favor on all counts,” Christina Lee, a spokeswoman for Kleiner, said in a statement. “We have no intention of accepting this unreasonable demand.”
Alan Exelrod, a lawyer for Pao, declined to comment on Kleiner’s filing.
Jeffrey Polsky, a San Francisco employment lawyer, said it seemed strange, given the result of the trial, that Pao was asking Kleiner to cover her $2.7 million in costs and fees, as the firm described it.
“One possibility is that she feels that she has a very strong issue to raise on appeal,” Polsky said. “Another possibility is that she is trying to negotiate a settlement of more than the $1 million she was offered.”
An appeal would keep the case going at least a year. Pao said after the five-week trial that she was ready to move on.
“I have told my story,” Pao, the interim chief executive officer at Reddit Inc., said after the March 27 verdict. “Now it’s time for me to get back to my career.”
What she’s seeking now is almost three times the $964,502 Kleiner offered to settle the case before trial.
Pao also contested Kleiner’s demand for court costs, saying the amount sought is excessive and that she isn’t required to reimburse the firm.
Kleiner fired back in its filing Friday in San Francisco state court.
“Her claim of unreasonableness is particularly nonsensical given her own post-trial demand,” the firm said. “Pao cannot have it both ways. She ran up KPCB’s cost by forcing KPCB to respond to an onslaught of allegations and discovery over the course of three years leading up to the trial and is now objecting when she receives the bill.”
Before the trial started in February, Pao’s husband, Alphonse “Buddy” Fletcher Jr., was ordered by a New York state judge to pay $2.7 million to a law firm that represented him in his racial discrimination complaint against the famed Dakota apartments in Manhattan’s Upper West Side. He sued after the management turned down his application to buy a unit adjacent to one he owned.
Kleiner, which had questioned Pao’s motivation for suing, was barred by the judge from telling the jury that Fletcher had financial difficulties after the master fund for his hedge fund filed for bankruptcy in 2012.
Pao claimed that during her tenure at Kleiner, she was subjected to a sexually charged atmosphere, preyed on by male colleagues and ultimately denied a promotion and fired because she complained about her treatment.
Kleiner said she didn’t succeed because she was hard to get along with, had no experience as an entrepreneur and lacked expertise in strategic markets for investments.
The case is Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers LLC, CGC-12-520719, California Superior Court (San Francisco).