A former partner in leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Sequoia Capital on Monday countersued a woman who claimed he sexually abused her for more than a decade, arguing that she was trying to extort $40 million from him.
Michael Goguen, the Sequoia Capital partner, was dismissed after the firm became aware of the lawsuit last Thursday, the firm said on Sunday. Goguen, who joined the Menlo Park, California-based firm in 1996, sits on the boards of about 10 companies.
In the cross-complaint attorneys for Michael Goguen depicted a consensual affair between Goguen and Baptiste and rejected her claims that he sexually and emotionally abused her.
Sequoia is one of the best-known venture firms in Silicon Valley and was an early investor in companies such as Apple , Google, PayPal and Oracle. The firm is also currently an investor in at least 27 private startups valued at over $1 billion, more than any other venture firm, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.
A lawsuit filed on March 8 in San Mateo County Superior Court in California claims Goguen abused Amber Laurel Baptiste “sexually, physically and emotionally for over 13 years.”
According to the lawsuit, Goguen signed a contract to pay Baptiste $40 million as compensation but after paying her $10 million Goguen refused to honor the rest of his agreement.
Goguen said in a statement from the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, which is representing him, that the matter was purely personal, with no connection to Sequoia, and he filed a cross-complaint on Monday.
Goguen’s cross-complaint includes texts and emails allegedly from Baptiste that portrayed what it called a “kind and mutually loving relationship,” which Goguen asserts illustrate the “extreme absurdity” of the claims against him.
“Baptiste ultimately wanted him to choose her as his life partner and father of her children,” the cross-complaint said.
A lawyer for Baptiste, Patricia Glaser of the law firm Glaser Weil Fink Howard Avchen & Shapiro LLP, on Monday denied her client was extorting Goguen. “This is a very simple, straightforward case,” she said. “The facts sort of speak for themselves.”
Sequoia’s venture capital rival in Silicon Valley, California, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, last year was embroiled in a gender-discrimination lawsuit that it later won after a five-week trial.
That case raised concerns among Silicon Valley venture capital firms about alleged misogyny, gender inequality and pay discrimination.
In 2014 venture capital firm CMEA Capital settled a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by three former female employees.
Sequoia has no U.S.-based female investing partners, but it does have five female investing partners in other areas of the world, according to a Wall Street Journal report.
Women account for only about 6.0 percent of partners at venture capital firms, according to Fortune magazine.
(Reporting by Stephen R. Trousdale and Anya George Tharakan in Bengaluru; additional reporting by Lewis Krauskopf; Editing by Clive McKeef)