Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Hyperloop Technologies Inc., known as Hyperloop One, speaks during an event. (Photographer: Anindito Mukherjee/Bloomberg)

Pishevar Takes Leave From His Firms After Misconduct Claims

(Bloomberg) -- Prominent Silicon Valley investor Shervin Pishevar, who has been accused by multiple women of sexual misconduct, said he’s taking a leave of absence from his duties at his venture capital firm Sherpa Capital and transportation startup Virgin Hyperloop One.

Pishevar, known for an early investment in Uber Technologies Inc., said he’s taking time off to pursue a legal case against people who he says have embarked on a smear campaign against him. Last month, he sued a corporate research firm founded by Republican campaign veterans, claiming it was trying to spread false allegations about him. The firm, Definers Public Affairs, denied the allegations and said it had never done work regarding Pishevar.

“As that legal case progresses, it is my priority to ensure that the Sherpa Capital family is not adversely affected,” Pishevar wrote Tuesday in an emailed statement. “I am confident I will be vindicated.”

Five women who met Pishevar in a professional context told Bloomberg they were sexually assaulted or harassed by him. In each case, the women accused Pishevar of exploiting a professional connection, and using the prospect of a job, mentorship or investment to make an unwanted sexual advance. Current and former colleagues of a sixth woman, Uber executive Austin Geidt, told Bloomberg that he groped her at the Uber holiday party in December 2014.

Virgin Hyperloop One called a board meeting Sunday, where directors discussed allegations covered in the Bloomberg story and raised the prospect that Pishevar should step down, people with knowledge of the event said this week. On Monday, two high-profile Democratic senators, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, said they had redirected money Pishevar had given to their campaigns or committees to organizations for sexual assault or domestic violence victims. Pishevar, a major connector of the technology industry to Washington, has donated more than $500,000 to Democratic candidates and causes.

In May, Pishevar was arrested at a hotel in London after a woman accused him of raping her. Police said Pishevar was “released under investigation” and never charged. Last month, Forbes and other publications reported on a document purported to be a police report, which turned out to be fabricated, according to London police. Pishevar said in his statement Tuesday: “I hope to unearth who fabricated the fraudulent London ‘police report’ and who is responsible for spreading false rumors about me.”

Pishevar co-founded both Sherpa Capital, where he retains the title of managing director, and Virgin Hyperloop One, where he’s co-executive chairman. In an email to the Virgin Hyperloop One board reviewed by Bloomberg, Pishevar said he would transfer his voting rights to Russian investor Ziyavudin Magomedov, who was named co-executive chairman in October. In addition to stepping away from those companies, Pishevar is taking a leave from his director roles on the boards of companies he and Sherpa Capital have backed, according to the statement. Pishevar’s board commitments include food-delivery company Munchery and health startup Cue.

Silicon Valley Bank said Pishevar was on leave from the board of Silicon Foundry, the joint venture between the bank and Sherpa Capital that aims to deepen ties between startups and established companies. Sherpa Capital co-founder Scott Stanford remains on the board. Bank executives had been in phone conversations with Pishevar over the weekend to discuss the status of the relationship, a spokeswoman for Silicon Valley Bank said.

In a separate statement, Sherpa Capital said it is starting an independent review of its practices and operations. A spokeswoman for the firm said it has never received a sexual harassment complaint.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.