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Expert Slams Kleiner Perkins' Investigation Into Pao's Allegations

“He only looked at apples, he didn't look at apples and oranges."

Courtroom sketch by Vicki Behringer.

The independent investigator who found that Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers had not discriminated against or retaliated against former employee Ellen Pao did a biased and incomplete job, said an expert witness hired by the Pao side today.

Allison West of Employment Practices Specialists laid out a criticism of Stephen Hirschfeld of Hirschfeld Kraemer, the investigating firm hired by Kleiner to evaluate whether Pao’s claims were true.

“He only looked at apples, he didn’t look at apples and oranges,” West said.

Her point: Hirschfeld did not thoroughly evaluate whether men in comparable positions to Pao were evaluated on different standards. Both Pao and her male counterparts were called “sharp elbowed” and “territorial” and were told they saw the world too much in black and white. But the men were promoted.

“When we have a woman making a complaint, by virtue of that you have to look at the men, someone who’s similarly situated,” West added. “Otherwise you’re just looking at the information in a vacuum, which is what Mr. Hirschfeld does.”

West said it was problematic that Kleiner couldn’t produce an equal opportunity employment policy for Hirschfeld, and that during his investigation Hirschfeld didn’t take into account contradictory accounts of Pao. He also didn’t interview all of the relevant witnesses (like Ajit Nazre, the partner Pao had a contentious relationship with who was no longer with the firm), and he didn’t hunt down evidence that was presented to him — for instance, an analysis from fellow colleague Trae Vassallo showing that she and other female partners at the firm had produced better investment results than their male counterparts.

West, who testified on both Friday and Monday, said Hirschfeld also used language in his report that showed a bias that favored Kleiner, for instance calling it “impossible” that Doerr wouldn’t recall something correctly.

And further, West called Hirschfeld’s credibility into question by saying she has not seen him participating in industry associations and trainings.

But elements of West’s argument were picked apart when she was cross-examined, in what was more an emotional dressing down than a substantive one.

Lynne Hermle, Kleiner’s defense attorney, took West to task over her “undocumented two-hour interview” with Pao during her investigation. She called West’s credentials versus Hirschfeld’s into question. She highlighted details that pointed to West being in Pao’s camp.

In Hermle’s view, West only looked for bad notes in male partners’ performance reviews. If Hirschfeld’s analysis was one-note, West’s was worse, she argued.

Hermle called up a 2011 review of Kleiner’s Chi-Hua Chien and began reading it to West.

“Here in this summary, do you see, ‘you are a huge value-add’? Did you see anything like that in Ms. Pao’s review?”

West could not recall.

“’You are a great sourcer of new ventures and your judgement is sought out by all the group,’” she read. “Did you see anything like that in Ms. Pao’s review?”

She called up another review, this time of Amol Deshpande, and continued her questioning: “When you looked at Ms. Pao’s review, did you see anything about ‘great networker’? Did you see anything about ‘excellent teamwork’? ‘Can-do attitude’?”

West could not remember the exact phrasing from Pao’s reviews and said it wasn’t relevant: “This is a case about gender discrimination — we need broader context to talk about the reviews,” she said.

Hermle said well-known Kleiner partner Mary Meeker had commented that people didn’t listen to Pao because she couldn’t “state her opinion with ‘power and punch.’” Did West know that?

West said yes, that was in Hirschfeld’s notes.

Hermle listed other women at Kleiner Perkins who had told Hirschfeld they did not feel discriminated against, and pointed out more quotes from his notes.

While Hermle’s dress down of West may have been masterful in resetting the court’s viewpoint, it skipped over some of the substance of West’s critique.

For instance: That problematic Vassallo analysis comparing the success of various partners’ ventures and their genders, showing women with the edge? West said it should have been used as a starting place and been carefully evaluated in the investigation. Instead, it wasn’t mentioned in Hirschfeld’s report.

In her cross-examination, Hermle brushed right by that topic, too.

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