Kleiner Perkins seeks almost $1 million in legal costs in Pao case

April 23, 2015, 10:37 PM UTC
Ellen Pao walks to a courtroom in San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco
Ellen Pao walks to a courtroom in San Francisco Superior Court in San Francisco, California February 26, 2015.
Robert Galbraith — Reuters

(REUTERS) — Venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers is seeking to recover about $973,000 in costs from a high profile gender discrimination trial that captivated Silicon Valley, according to a court filing on Thursday.

A jury cleared Kleiner Perkins in March of claims it short-circuited former partner Ellen Pao’s career because she is a woman. The trial helped spark a wide discussion about gender at the center of the U.S. technology industry.

Kleiner has offered to waive its legal costs should Pao choose not to appeal, according to firm spokeswoman Christina Lee. Kleiner’s costs request includes about $865,000 in expert witness fees, the court filing said.

“We believe that women in technology would be best served by having all parties focus on making progress on the issues of gender diversity outside of continued litigation,” Lee said in a statement.

Pao and her legal team are considering the proposal, said Heather Wilson, a spokeswoman for Pao.

Pao, now interim chief executive at social-news service Reddit, claimed her standing at Kleiner Perkins crumbled after she ended a brief affair with a partner. Her career deteriorated after he and Kleiner Perkins started retaliating against her in a climate that was overall unfriendly toward women, her lawyers argued.

After the verdict, three jurors told Reuters they had focused on Pao’s increasingly negative performance reviews, which undermined her argument that she deserved to be promoted.

Kleiner’s offer to withdraw its costs request in exchange for an end to the case, is common when defendants prevail in employment lawsuits. Should Pao decide to pursue an appeal, her case would be heard by California’s First District Court of Appeal.

According to Westlaw data, out of 49 decisions involving discrimination and retaliation over the past two years, the First District affirmed 26 of 31 cases where the employer won in the trial court, or 84 percent. Only five cases were reversed.

Meanwhile the court, which covers San Francisco and 11 other Northern California counties, handed victory to employers in more than half of the cases they lost in the lower courts, reversing 10 of 18 cases.

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