Booker, Harris Donate Pishevar Funds After Misconduct Claims

(Bloomberg) -- Two high-profile Democratic senators said they’re giving money they received from venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar to charities after Bloomberg reported on the accounts of multiple women who say he sexually harassed or assaulted them.

U.S. Senator Kamala Harris of California donated all of Pishevar’s contributions to organizations that provide services and advocacy for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, said Lily Adams, a spokeswoman for the senator. Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey made similar donations with Pishevar’s contributions to Booker’s political action committees, said Jeff Giertz, a campaign spokesman. Both Harris and Booker, who had together received about $15,000 from Pishevar, are seen as contenders for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in 2020.

Booker, Harris Donate Pishevar Funds After Misconduct Claims

Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Pishevar, didn’t immediately have a comment. In an emailed statement last week, Fabiani said Pishevar “is the victim of an organized smear campaign.”

Some of Pishevar’s associates are re-evaluating ties with the venture capitalist and political donor after allegations of sexual misconduct involving six women. Some board members of Virgin Hyperloop One, a futuristic transportation startup he co-founded, are pressing him to exit the board, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Pishevar’s political influence has made him a valuable connector in Silicon Valley. He hosted fundraisers for Booker and Hillary Clinton, attracting crowds of technology executives and investors. Pishevar was a major donor to Barack Obama’s 2012 campaign, and the president named him to the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board in 2015. Pishevar has given more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and committees, according to lobbying database OpenSecrets.

A spokeswoman for Obama declined to comment, and a Clinton representative didn’t respond to requests. A spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee, which received the bulk of Pishevar’s funding, did not respond to requests for comment. The Fulbright program declined to comment on the allegations against Pishevar, but a State Department official said board removals and appointees must be determined by the White House.

Virgin Hyperloop One, which is developing a tube-based train system, called a board meeting Sunday night and discussed allegations covered in the Bloomberg story, said people with knowledge of the discussion. Directors raised the prospect of Pishevar stepping down as co-executive chairman, which he declined, said two of the people, who asked not to be named because the meeting was private.

Marcy Simon, a spokeswoman for Virgin Hyperloop One, said the Sunday conference call was “a scheduled board meeting” and denied that directors asked Pishevar to step down.

Pishevar is most known for making a lucrative, early bet on Uber Technologies Inc., where he was a board observer until 2015. Current and former employees told Bloomberg that Pishevar repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward their colleague, Austin Geidt, including at a company party in 2014. Five other women, who asked not to be identified fearing legal retribution, alleged that Pishevar sexually harassed or assaulted them after raising the prospect of a job, mentorship or investment. Pishevar denied all the claims and said he “will be vindicated.”

Uber said Pishevar had an agreement in 2013 with former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick to serve as a special adviser but that Pishevar hasn’t had a role at the company for some time. “We fully support those who have felt harassed speaking out, whenever and however they choose,” Uber said in an emailed statement. “We commend their bravery.”

Pishevar is one of several tech industry stalwarts who has been accused of sexual misconduct this year, part of a broader movement to expose men who have allegedly abused their power to harass, assault or pursue romantic relationships with women. In the tech world, misconduct allegations have resulted in the ouster of CEOs at BetterWorks Systems Inc. and Social Finance Inc., as well as several venture capitalists, including Justin Caldbeck and Steve Jurvetson.

Pishevar’s venture firm, Sherpa Capital, has been looking to raise additional cash. Pishevar started the firm in 2013 with former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker Scott Stanford, with backing from TPG and other investors. Sherpa Capital said in October that it was working with Silicon Valley Bank on a new project to support entrepreneurs.

TPG declined to comment on the claims against Pishevar, and the bank didn’t respond to requests for comment. Sherpa Capital said in a statement: “We are taking this matter extremely seriously and remain focused on acting in the best interests of Sherpa Capital and all of our stakeholders.”

Last month, Pishevar sued a research firm founded by Republican campaign veterans, claiming it’s trying to spread false allegations about him. The firm, Definers Public Affairs, said it has never conducted work regarding Pishevar and called his complaint “delusional.”

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