Ex-Sequoia VC Goguen Calls Sex-Abuse Suit Extortion

  • Goguen says former exotic dancer sought $40 million hush money
  • Woman accuses venture capitalist of abusing her for 13 years

Former Sequoia Capital partner Michael Goguen countersued the woman who claims he sexually abused her for more than a decade, alleging that she’d threatened to publicly accuse him of “false, horrific acts” unless he paid her $40 million in hush money.

The venture capitalist accused Amber Laurel Baptiste of extortion in California state court in San Mateo, six days after she sued him. His 16-page countersuit, littered with intimate details of their affair, alleges that Baptiste was an exotic dancer when the two met, “first looking for a payday and later for revenge.”

Goguen’s filing references thousands of e-mails and text messages with Baptiste to argue the affair was consensual. He said the relationship unraveled when he declined to “make a greater commitment” to Baptiste, according to the filing. He said Baptiste tried to pressure him to pay her by calling him a “rapist, murderer and pedophile.”

In her complaint filed last week, Baptiste said 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. Baptiste said in her filing that the two agreed to the $40 million, but that Goguen refused to honor the agreement after paying her $10 million. Goguen’s case states the two finally agreed on $10 million.

Goguen had been a fixture at Sequoia for almost 20 years. A graduate of Cornell University and then of Stanford University, Goguen specialized in networking, infrastructure and security with hits including flash storage company Virident Systems and security firm FireEye. CBInsights recently named him 75th on a list of the top 100 best venture capitalists.

Harassment, Abuse

The treatment of women in the venture capital industry, and in several cases by players in it, has been an area of growing concern. Ellen Pao sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for discrimination, making public stories of her and other women feeling harassed, fielding unwanted sexual advances and being targeted for retaliation when relations turned sour. A jury rejected Pao’s claims last year after a trial. Formation 8 partner and Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale faced a lawsuit from his former girlfriend alleging sexual abuse. That suit and Lonsdale’s countersuit for defamation were dropped last year.

The public discussions also sparked questions about women being fairly represented in venture capital -- an industry which now has just 6 percent of women in senior roles. During an interview with Bloomberg TV this year, Sequoia partner Mike Moritz sparked a social media backlash when he said his company “wasn’t prepared to lower our standards” just to fill gender equality guidelines -- a comment he later revised.

‘Appropriate Course’

Goguen left Sequoia last week. While Sequoia tweeted that the allegations against Goguen were “unproven and unrelated” to the firm, it also said, “Nevertheless, we came to the decision that Mike’s departure was the appropriate course of action.”

Baptiste accuses Goguen of breaking their May 2014 agreement by stopping payments to her. Goguen says Baptiste broke the agreement by failing to keep their past relationship confidential as required by the agreement.

Patricia Glaser, a lawyer for Baptiste, said she plans to move ahead with discovery in the case and take it to trial.

“We have a client who filed a verified complaint, verified under penalty of perjury, and a cross complaint was filed by the defendant that’s not verified,” Glaser said. “We have a client who was begged to sign an agreement paying her $40 million, $10 million of which was paid. And then he reneged. This is uncontroverted.”

In his countersuit, Goguen seeks the return of the $10 million and a declaration voiding the agreement he says Baptiste extorted from him. He also seeks damages under California privacy laws.

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

(Corrects name of school Goguen attended in fifth paragraph.)
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