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A Re/code Timeline: The Ellen Pao v. Kleiner Perkins Trial

A chronology of the Ellen Pao/Kleiner Perkins gender discrimination trial thus far.


For the last few weeks, Silicon Valley has been watching what’s been happening inside downtown San Francisco’s Civic Center Courthouse with rapt attention.

Interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao is suing her old employer, the influential venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in a gender discrimination case that has captivated the tech industry.

Pao alleges that she was denied lucrative senior roles and was ultimately pushed out of the company because of a workplace atmosphere that was toxic for women. Pao’s legal team has argued that an affair with then-coworker Ajit Nazre began as consensual, but spiraled into a situation that partly led to Pao’s exit.

Kleiner Perkins’ attorneys have attempted to poke holes in Pao’s story of her tenure at Kleiner Perkins, painting a picture of a testy junior partner who wasn’t a “team player.” The defense has worked to show that Pao was hired for a different role from what she might have envisioned, and that she really wasn’t as good at her job as she says.

Re/code’s Liz Gannes and Nellie Bowles have been live-blogging and reporting from the courtroom since the trial began, and you can get the whole story from this timeline of what’s happened thus far (which we will be updating):

  • February 18: The week before the trial began, it was clear how much was on the line for both Pao and Kleiner Perkins. Pao is now the interim CEO of the social news site Reddit, which could be worth as much as $500 million. She and her husband, the disgraced former hedge fund manager Buddy Fletcher, have received negative attention in long profiles by Fortune and Vanity Fair, and few expected her suit to make it to trial. Kleiner Perkins, meanwhile, was preparing for a messy, public ordeal that would put the firm at the center of the growing conversation about the shockingly low number of women in venture capital.
  • February 24: On the first day of the trial, each side laid out their opening arguments and heard testimony from ex-Kleiner partner Trae Vassallo. In her opening statement, the plaintiff’s attorney spoke about troubling incidents that suggested serious gender discrimination issues at Kleiner Perkins. The defense told the jury that Pao was hired for a different role from the one she thought she was entitled to, and that Pao didn’t have the “team player” personality required to succeed at the firm. When Vassallo got on the stand, she said that although she felt some of her superiors individually supported women, Kleiner mishandled her own unwanted sexual encounter with fellow partner Ajit Nazre.
  • February 25: The second day began with former Kleiner Perkins senior partner Chi-Hua Chien taking the stand. Pao’s attorney grilled Chien over details about an all-male company ski trip in 2012, and the time he allegedly justified excluding women from a dinner with Al Gore because “women kill the buzz.”
  • February 26: Kleiner Perkins CFO Susan Biglieri, under questioning from Pao’s lawyer, affirmed that when partners were promoted to managing a fund and given the “managing partner” title, their incomes could increase as much as five times. A small number of women were given these management positions, and Kleiner Perkins only promoted them after Pao made her complaints in 2011 and 2012. Pao’s side claims that when she sourced a successful Kleiner Perkins investment in RPX, which IPO’d within three years, that should have been grounds for a promotion.
  • February 27: Pao is currently serving as the interim CEO of the social news site Reddit, which has also hosted lengthy discussions about the trial. One of the most popular comments: “Two degrees from Harvard and one from Princeton and she’s still dumb enough to get ‘pressured’ into sleeping with a married co-worker to get ahead in her career.”
  • February 27: On day four, attorneys cross-examined longtime Kleiner Perkins partner Ted Schlein. Schlein characterized Pao as “entitled” and went into details about a potential job offer for her from Google Ventures. A June 2011 performance review that was edited multiple times also came up, with drafts over time going from “You should probably start looking for other work” to “Great job!”
  • March 2: Schlein wrapped up his testimony (he had been on the stand for three days), and Kleiner Perkins partner emeritus Ray Lane took his place. Lane copped to mishandling the situation with Nazre, and his testimony underscored the absence of any human resources oversight. Big revelation from the day: Both Schlein and Lane thought famed Kleiner Perkins partner Mary Meeker was a managing partner on the high-flying fund she oversaw, but an internal document showed that she may not have been.
  • March 3-4: Over the course of two days in court, Kleiner Perkins’ leader John Doerr somehow made both Pao and Kleiner Perkins look good. Doerr went on a tear about the dearth of women in venture capital, and he described being the last one at the firm fighting to keep Pao there. He also said she was a flawed venture capitalist, seeming to affirm his colleagues’ impression of her professional competency.
  • March 5-6: In early 2012, an investigator hired by Kleiner Perkins found that gender discrimination wasn’t a problem at the firm. That investigator, Stephen Hirschfeld, testified for two days about his work for the firm and the conclusions he reached. Pao’s attorneys jumped on a number of curious decisions made by Hirschfeld, such as his failure to include a chart depicting gendered pay inequality at Kleiner Perkins prepared by Trae Vassallo in his final report to the firm. Also of note: Apparently Hirschfeld’s notes show that Mary Meeker didn’t think the company had a gender discrimination problem.
  • March 9, 10 and 11: Finally, Ellen Pao took the stand. She recalled that Doerr did nothing with a list of concerns from women at Kleiner Perkins, the time the firm attempted to relocate her to the back of the building and other incidents she construed as discriminatory. The defense responded by presenting contradictions in Pao’s story from when she filed the lawsuit in 2012 and now, and putting Pao through an uncomfortable retelling of her relationship with Nazre, and when exactly it became non-consensual. On the third day of Pao’s testimony, Kleiner Perkins’ attorney Lynne Hermle produced more evidence suggesting that Pao had plenty of support to deal with harassment issues, questioning Pao’s reasons for why she decided to sue Kleiner Perkins at all. Relatedly, during Pao’s testimony, the defense asked the judge to let them introduce a financial motive for Pao’s actions, but the request was denied.
  • March 12: A central point of contention throughout the trial has been the lack of an HR or equal-opportunity-employment policy on the books at Kleiner Perkins. According to documents, Kleiner only implemented an EOE policy in 2012, after complaints from women began to surface. Eric Keller, COO of Kleiner Perkins at the time, told the court that during this period when the company began to take action on these issues (by hiring the investigator Hirschfeld), Pao was uncooperative in the company’s efforts.
  • March 16: An expert witness for the plaintiff, Allison West of Employment Practices Specialists, said Kleiner Perkins seriously mishandled its outside investigation of Pao’s complaints. West’s criticism included that Stephen Hirschfeld’s inquiry didn’t assess if men and women were held to a different standard, and that ignoring Trae Vassallo’s pay discrepancy matrix was a major flub. Kleiner Perkins’ attorney Hermle pushed back, arguing that many of the firm’s male partners didn’t get the kind of praise that Pao did.
  • March 17: Pao’s side says that she wasn’t sufficiently rewarded for her role in the RPX investment, a company that went on to IPO. Randy Komisar, the general partner who worked with Pao on RPX, told the court that Pao began undermining him after he was given an RPX board seat. He said her “politicking” betrayed his trust, as she told him that other RPX board members “hated” him and that he should give up his seat. Komisar also denied saying she shouldn’t get a board seat because she was pregnant (a key claim of Pao’s suit), and he dismissed the notion that a gift he gave Pao was sexually motivated.
  • March 18-19: The senior partner who took charge in letting Pao go, Matt Murphy said that Pao was given a chance before she was fired in October 2012. Murphy said that Pao didn’t have great “chemistry” with the other partners, she wasn’t responsive to his advice and that she wasn’t much of a “thought leader.” Curiously, Murphy only began taking negative notes on Pao’s performance four days after she filed her lawsuit. Also on the stand, Paul Gompers, a professor at Harvard Business School, testified that Kleiner Perkins is leaps and bounds ahead of the venture capital sector when it comes to employing women. Gompers was paid about $900 an hour for his expert testimony.
  • March 2425: The closing arguments. The courtroom was packed with schoolchildren, tech executives, reporters and other curious onlookers. Plaintiff lawyer Alan Exelrod told the jury that Pao’s performance was more than adequate for a promotion, and the lewd details of the trial were just noise obscuring that simple fact. Next up, Kleiner Perkins’ attorney Lynne Hermle reiterated the key theme of the defense: Pao was a selfish careerist who didn’t make anything of the opportunities afforded her by the firm. On rebuttal, Pao’s lawyer Therese Lawless hit back saying other women were scared to testify about their experiences, and positioning Pao’s suit as a rallying cry for women in the corporate world.
  • March 27: The verdict came in at around 2 PM: The jury found against Ellen Pao on all claims. There was some brief confusion, as the jury miscounted one of its votes, but the result stayed the same. Pao and Lynne Hermle both gave brief statements.

This article originally appeared on

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