Former HP chairman admits 'mistake' in sexism trial

Mon Mar 2, 2015 10:18pm EST
 
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By Sarah McBride and Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Onetime highflying tech executive Ray Lane testified on Monday during a sex discrimination trial involving his former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, that he made a mistake in judgment involving the harassment of a female venture capitalist at the firm, and that he feared for the woman's safety.

Lane, who previously served as executive chairman of Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N: Quote) and president of Oracle Corp (ORCL.N: Quote), told the court he erred in not immediately informing others that Trae Vassallo told him about unwanted advances by her colleague, Ajit Nazre, during a 2011 business trip.

"I made a mistake," he said. "It was my mistake. I cared more about her feelings than anything else. I thought it should be her choice" whether to tell others at the firm and start an investigation, he said.

Eventually, he would have taken action, but at the time, he suggested to Vassallo that she think it over and discuss it with her husband, in part because he "feared somewhat for her safety."

The firm did start an investigation after Vassallo told more partners.

Vassallo had complained that Nazre tried to enter her hotel room at night, wearing a bathrobe and, Lane said, holding a glass of wine.

Lane told the court he worried Nazre "could have pushed his way in" and the situation "could have gone in a different direction."

Whether Kleiner reacted appropriately to allegations of sexism is at the heart of the suit, filed by former partner Ellen Pao.   Continued...

 
Ray Lane appears at San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco, California March 2, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith