Sequoia Partner Goguen Leaves Firm After Sex Abuse Lawsuit

  • Woman claims Goguen failed to pay $40 million to avoid suit
  • Goguen says he'll countersue claiming he's being extorted

Sequoia Capital partner Michael Goguen left the venture capital firm last week after a woman accused him in a lawsuit of more than a decade of sexual abuse.

Amber Laurel Baptiste, who claims to have been brought to the U.S. by human traffickers, sued Goguen in San Mateo, California, state court alleging he failed to pay her the full $40 million he had agreed to avoid an earlier lawsuit.

Goguen said he plans to countersue Monday for extortion. He said it’s a “purely personal” matter and has nothing to do with Sequoia.

The treatment of women in the venture capital industry has come under scrutiny in recent years since Ellen Pao sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, alleging she was blocked from advancing because of her gender. While Kleiner prevailed in the suit, the trial gave other women who worked in the industry an opportunity to air their grievances in testimony about their own experiences with harassment, unwanted sexual advances and retaliation when romances didn’t work out. 

Six Percent

Joe Lonsdale, co-founder of Palantir, faced a lawsuit from his former girlfriend alleging sexual abuse. That suit and Lonsdale’s countersuit for defamation were dropped last year.

The venture capital industry has also been criticized for a dearth of female senior leadership, with women making up only 6 percent of partners at firms. Sequoia partner Mike Moritz incited a backlash in social media when he said his company “wasn’t prepared to lower our standards” just to fill gender equality guidelines.

Sequoia said it first learned of Baptiste’s claims on March 10.

“We understand that these allegations of serious improprieties are unproven and unrelated to Sequoia,” the firm said in an e-mailed statement. “Nevertheless, we came to the decision that Mike’s departure was the appropriate course of action.”

Baptiste claims Goguen met her at a strip club where she was forced to work by human traffickers. He had promised to free her from her captors in exchange for sex and then sexually, physically and emotionally abused her for 13 years, according to the complaint.

He agreed to pay her $40 million when she threatened to sue him, but after paying her $10 million he refused to honor the rest of the agreement, Baptiste claimed.

“These horrific allegations against me come at the end of a 10+ year romantic relationship that ended badly,” Goguen said in an e-mailed statement. “Not surprisingly, the complaint is filled with every horrible buzzword you could throw at someone in today’s society to destroy their reputation.”

The case is Baptiste v Goguen, CIV537691, Superior Court of California, San Mateo County (San Mateo).

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