March 12, 2015 / 3:03 AM / in 3 years

Kleiner questions whether ex-partner Pao acted for money

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers tried to demonstrate on Wednesday that a former partner suing the venture capital firm for gender discrimination was motivated by money, as its lawyer cross-examined her for a second day.

Ellen Pao walks to a courtroom in San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco, California February 26, 2015. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

Ellen Pao has testified that she filed her 2012 lawsuit because she “wanted to change Kleiner Perkins.” Pao’s lawsuit helped spark a broad and ongoing conversation about gender issues in Silicon Valley.

In San Francisco Superior Court on Wednesday, Kleiner lawyer Lynne Hermle asked Pao why she hired an employment attorney and demanded a 10-figure severance payment before she wrote a memo to colleagues about problems women faced at the firm in 2012.

“I wanted somebody to help me get Kleiner Perkins to change,” Pao said.

“You thought a lawyer would help negotiate changes at Kleiner Perkins?” Hermle said.

Into the third week of this case, Kleiner’s cross examination of Pao marks the first time that she has been on the defensive about her 7-year tenure at the firm, best known for backing Amazon, Google, and other well-known technology companies.

Hermle also tried on Wednesday to undercut claims by Pao that she flagged “loosey-goosey” personnel policies at the venture firm as early as 2007, but was ignored. Hermle displayed several emails written by Pao to senior partners, including senior partner John Doerr, about a brief affair she had with a colleague. Pao has claimed she faced retaliation for breaking off the affair, first from the colleague and eventually from other senior Kleiner executives.

“I’m sorry to have brought stress into your life with the issues I raised,” Pao wrote in the email.

Hermle asked if Pao had mentioned anything about HR policies in her correspondence. “No,” Pao answered.

Hermle also tried to portray Pao as a divisive figure at Kleiner, questioning her about tension in her dealings with former Kleiner partner Trae Vassallo, the first witness in the case.

Vassallo was previously called by Pao’s attorneys to testify about unwanted advances Vassallo suffered from the same male colleague Pao had the affair with. Vassallo also described additional slights at the hands of male senior partners.

During cross examination on Wednesday, however, Hermle questioned Pao, who acknowledged she had heard that she had made Vassallo cry in the office after accusing her of being untrustworthy.

Reporting by Dan Levine; Editing by Christian Plumb and Edwina Gibbs

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