News that doesn't receive the necessary attention.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Plaintiff in sexual discrimination lawsuit against Al Gore Silicon Valley firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers may seek punitive damages which could add tens of millions to her award-AP

Al Gore is a senior partner of Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, having joined them in 2007. AP article doesn't mention Al Gore. 
 
3/21/15, "Judge says plaintiff in venture firm bias case may seek damages potentially worth millions," AP, Lisa Leff, San Francisco, via US News

Al Gore, from his website
"A California trial judge ruled Saturday that a woman suing a Silicon Valley venture capital firm in a high-profile gender bias case may seek punitive damages that could add tens of millions of dollars to the $16 million in lost wages and bonuses she is pursuing.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Harold Kahn denied a request by lawyers for Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers to have Ellen Pao's demand for unspecified punitive damages thrown out. Pao, the interim CEO of the news and social networking site Reddit, claims she was passed over for a promotion at the firm because she is a woman and then fired in 2012 after she complained.

Kahn said there was enough evidence for the jury considering Pao's lawsuit to conclude that Kleiner Perkins acted with malice, oppression or fraud, which in California is the legal threshold for awarding damages that are designed to punish and deter particularly bad behavior.

"Per this standard, there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror could conclude that Kleiner Perkins engaged in intentional gender discrimination by failing to promote Ms. Pao and terminating her employment," the judge said in the one-paragraph decision.

Kleiner Perkins has denied wrongdoing and says Pao didn't get along with her colleagues and performed poorly after she became a junior partner around 2010.

Jurors are expected to hear closing arguments in the case on Tuesday. Kahn's decision means he will instruct them before they start deliberating that they will need to decide, along with the validity of Pao's underlying sex discrimination claim, is whether she is entitled to punitive damages and if so, how much. Punitive damages often run much higher than the awards designed to compensate plaintiffs for financial losses.

The four-week trial on Pao's lawsuit has spotlighted gender imbalance at elite Silicon Valley investment companies that are stacked with some of the nation's most accomplished graduates who compete aggressively to back the next Google or Amazon."

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"Al Gore, Al's Bio," algore.com/about

"Former Vice President Al Gore is co-founder and chairman of Generation Investment Management. He is a senior partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and a member of Apple, Inc.'s board of directors. Gore spends the majority of his time as chairman of The Climate Reality Project, a non-profit devoted to solving the climate crisis. 

Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1976, 1978, 1980 and 1982 and the U.S. Senate in 1984 and 1990. He was inaugurated as the forty-fifth Vice President of the United States on January 20, 1993, and served eight years. 

He is the author of the bestsellers Earth in the Balance, An Inconvenient Truth, The Assault on Reason, Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, and most recently, The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change. He is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary and is the co-recipient, with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for "informing the world of the dangers posed by climate change."

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Gore's presence at Kleiner Perkins is expected to steer federal and state taxpayer dollars to them: "The association between Kleiner and Mr. Gore “just means that clean tech is an inherently a political exercise.""

11/13/2007, "Investment Firm Names Gore as a Partner," NY Times, Matt Richtel 

"Deepening his ties to Silicon Valley, former Vice President Al Gore said on Monday that he had become a partner in the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

The alliance provides Mr. Gore an additional pulpit for his advocacy of environmental causes, but also gives the Nobel laureate an opportunity to nurture green businesses. 

Venture capitalists said the move could help companies financed by Kleiner establish ties with big business and government, and obtain subsidies that encourage broader use of new technologies. 

Mr. Gore’s part-time duties will entail investigating the growth potential of start-up companies focused on the alternative energy sector, and then weighing in on whether Kleiner Perkins should finance those companies.

Mr. Gore said he would donate his salary from the venture to the Alliance for Climate Protection, a nonprofit policy foundation. Venture capitalist partners also typically earn a management fee of 2 percent of the amount of money they invest, but the potential for huge returns comes from the 20 percent they take of the profit when the start-ups they have supported go public or are acquired. Kleiner Perkins declined to say whether Mr. Gore would receive a management fee or participate in profit sharing, noting that matters of compensation are private. “I will pull my share of the load at Kleiner Perkins,” Mr. Gore said in an interview. “I will be involved in a lot of activities.”

Mr. Gore is no stranger to Silicon Valley. He sits on the board of Apple, and has an advisory role with Google. He is co-founder and chairman of Current TV, a television network based in San Francisco that broadcasts viewer-created content. 

The Democratic Party presidential nominee in 2000, Mr. Gore keeps an apartment in San Francisco and spends five to six days a month in the area; a portion of that time will now be spent at Kleiner Perkins, which is based in Menlo Park, Mr. Gore said.
John Doerr, a partner at Kleiner Perkins who is a strong advocate for the development of alternative energy technologies, said Mr. Gore would help the firm, one of Silicon Valley’s largest, attract innovative start-ups — an advantage in the firm’s competition with other venture capitalists. 
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Silicon Valley’s venture firms have focused increasingly on financing alternative energy start-ups, so-called clean-tech companies. The early investors are banking heavily — risking billions of dollars — on the proposition that solar power, various forms of ethanol, and other innovations will benefit as oil prices rise and federal and state government increase incentives for use of alternatives to oil.
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Thus far, though, few of the alternative energy start-ups have rendered big payoffs for investors. The investments are relatively recent, and venture capitalists say it takes time for start-ups to grow to where their services are ready for the mass market. But the other more fundamental challenge is that oil and gas provide most of the world’s fuel, and displacing them in a cost-effective way presents an enormous challenge.

Paul Kedrosky, a venture capitalist and author of the blog Infectious Greed, said that Mr. Gore’s new role could benefit start-up companies by providing guidance through the political process.
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For instance, Mr. Kedrosky said, Mr. Gore would now have a financial incentive to push for subsidies, like the tax incentives or rebates that have buoyed the solar industry, or to provide start-ups with important connections in government and big business.
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“Anyone who thinks this is happening because Al has fantastic clean-tech entrepreneurial chops is fooling themselves,” Mr. Kedrosky said. Alternative energy “is a policy issue, a political issue, and that requires connections to get things done.”
Mr. Gore “is a political rainmaker,” Mr. Kedrosky said. The association between Kleiner and Mr. Gore “just means that clean tech is an inherently political exercise.
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It is not unusual for politicians and other celebrities to join venture firms, or other investment companies, at least in some capacity. Former President Bill Clinton was an adviser to the financier Ronald W. Burkle, and Bono, the singer from U2, has an affiliation with Elevation Partners, a Silicon Valley investment firm.

Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell serves as a strategic limited partner for Kleiner Perkins, a considerably less intimate role than that Mr. Gore takes as a partner. Former President George H. W. Bush has had a relationship with the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm. 

As part of the affiliation announced on Monday, Kleiner Perkins said it would collaborate with Generation Investment Management to find and finance clean-tech start-ups globally. Generation, which is based in Britain and was co-founded by Mr. Gore, focuses on investing in larger operations and later-stage companies focused on clean tech.

Mr. Gore has said he did not expect to be a candidate for the presidency in 2008, and he reiterated that position in an interview Monday.

“I don’t expect to be a candidate again,” he said."

Image caption: "Former Vice President Gore during a speech in June (2007) in Canne, France, before the screening of “An Inconvenient Truth.”" AFP/Getty via NY Times







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