Kleiner run 'like a boys club,' Pao attorney tells jurors

Tue Mar 24, 2015 6:57pm EDT
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By Sarah McBride and Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was run "like a boys club," a lawyer for one of its former partners who is suing the firm for sex discrimination told jury members on Tuesday.

During closing arguments in San Francisco Superior Court, plaintiff Ellen Pao's attorney Alan Exelrod said the culture at Kleiner Perkins disrespected women, that men took the lead, and that "no woman was going to challenge them."

"They ran Kleiner Perkins like a boys club," Exelrod said, in a case that helped spark a broad discussion about sexism in Silicon Valley.

However, Kleiner attorney Lynne Hermle defended the firm's treatment of women and said Pao herself never tried to help female coworkers.

"The complaints of Ellen Pao were made for only one purpose: a huge payout for Team Ellen," Hermle said.

The case has laid bare the personnel matters of the firm that backed Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc, painting it as a quarrelsome pressure cooker where a former male partner used business trips as opportunities to make advances to female colleagues.

Jurors are being asked to decide whether Kleiner discriminated against Pao based on her gender and whether it retaliated against her.

Pao, now interim chief executive at social-news service Reddit, claims her standing at Kleiner crumbled after she ended a brief affair with partner Ajit Nazre. Her career deteriorated after he and Kleiner started retaliating against her, her lawyers argue. [L1N0VZ031]   Continued...

Ellen Pao walks to San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco, California March 3, 2015.  REUTERS/Robert Galbraith