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Hyperloop One Co-Founder Says Harassment Claims Are a ‘Smear Campaign’

December 2, 2017, 10:02 PM UTC

Sherpa Ventures founder and Hyperloop One Co-Executive Chairman Shervin Pishevar has denied recent allegations of sexual misconduct, calling them part of a “smear campaign.”

The allegations, including accusations of misconduct against five unnamed women, were first detailed by Bloomberg late Thursday. They include descriptions of Pishevar allegedly using physical force to kiss and grope multiple women in professional situations.

In a statement shared by TechCrunch, the venture capitalist’s lawyer yesterday wrote in part that “Shervin Pishevar is the victim of an organized smear campaign,” and claimed that earlier falsified accusations against Pishevar in London were part of the same campaign.

Pishevar’s lawyer didn’t name a culprit for the alleged campaign, but Pishevar, a prominent Democrat, recently sued a Republican research firm for defamation. His suit alleged that an unnamed business competitor sought to damage his character and career by digging up dirt on him.

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In addition to his role at Hyperloop One, Pishevar has overseen investments in Airbnb, Munchery, and, most notably, Uber. Pishevar is reportedly a close friend of ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who by multiple accounts fostered an atmosphere in which sexism and harassment overlapped with other kinds of irresponsible and illegal behavior. Several of Bloomberg’s sources alleged that Pishevar made unwanted advances on a younger Uber executive by leveraging his role at the company, though the alleged victim did not confirm those claims.

Pishevar, like Kalanick, has had brushes with controversy across several genres. His defamation suit was a response to allegations that he was somehow linked to the Russian government and Vladimir Putin. He was also involved in a grim shakeup at Hyperloop One, which he co-founded. Pishevar’s brother, Afshin Pishevar, was accused in 2016 of intimidating the company’s founding CTO, Brogan BamBrogan, by leaving a noose on his desk. The conflict devolved into mutual accusations of bad faith and BamBrogan’s departure from the company.

The new accusations against Pishevar come just a week after somewhat milder allegations surfaced against billionaire Richard Branson, with whom Pishevar and Hyperloop One are now in a high-profile partnership. As we noted in the Branson case, mere denials in the face of sexual misconduct allegations have become less tenable in the post-Weinstein era. It remains to be seen whether Pishevar’s spirited defense – that he’s the victim of a determined conspiracy – will hold up to public scrutiny any better.