Kleiner Perkins: Investors can leave

May 25, 2012

FORTUNE -- Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is making an offer to limited partners who are upset that the firm has been sued by one of its partners for gender discrimination: If you want out, we'll let you out.

Sources tell me that the option is available to investors in KPCB XV, a $525 million fund that closed on all of its institutional commitments just days after the complaint was filed. Kleiner Perkins did not inform investors of the suit, apparently due to legal advice that such an action could have been viewed as some sort of retaliation by the plaintiff (an argument that seems to split the employment attorneys I've spoken with).

In emails sent to me following the suit's disclosure, limited partners used terms like "stunned" and "sandbagged." One suggested that the episode would likely preclude his organization from supporting Kleiner Perkins in the future.

So the question now is if any Kleiner Perkins limited partner actually walks the disgruntled talk. If so, then Kleiner Perkins clearly miscalculated its investor relations strategy. If not, then the firm's initial arrogance may have been justified. Call me cynical, but my guess is that the latter prevails...

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