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Revelations About Mary Meeker and Questions From the Jury in Pao/Kleiner Perkins Trial

Was Mary Meeker left out of a key role?

Vjeran Pavic

Day Five in the blockbuster gender discrimination lawsuit filed by Ellen Pao against her former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, was a transitional day. Kleiner Perkins partner Ted Schlein wrapped up three days of testimony; Kleiner Perkins partner emeritus Ray Lane briefly took the stand; and then there was a very short introduction to external investigator Stephen Hirschfeld, whom the firm had brought in to investigate reports of sexual harassment.

Schlein’s testimony lasted long because he had such a key role in Pao’s experience at Kleiner Perkins; he was her boss when she moved to an investing role at the venture capital firm. They had worked closely together, he had been hugely involved in her performance reviews, which are now a major point of contention, and he was one of the people who fired her.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the tail end of the testimony was that the jury in the case — which has sat through days of back-and-forth about the arcane, clubby and elite world of venture capital — contributed something like 15 to 20 very educated questions for Schlein.

“What qualifications are deemed important for bringing partners into the firm?” one juror asked. Also: “How important is it to team morale for the partners to like each other?” and “When and why did your relationship with Ms. Pao change?”

Schlein’s response on that last question was telling. He said the only instance his relationship with Pao had changed was when she moved onto his team. He continued to deny that her filing suit against the firm changed their relationship, and that her lawsuit had anything to do with her being fired.

But in general, the patterns of the trial continued. The defense team has effectively parried Pao’s team’s descriptions of egregious events by calling her recollections into question and planting them in a larger picture of supportive relationships between men and women. But it doesn’t appear that the company had very effective guidelines for how to deal with conflicts and inappropriate behavior. Partners had wide discretion to deal with events as they chose, and their judgment calls don’t always look good in hindsight.

There was a clear change in tone in the courtroom as Lane replaced Schlein on the stand. Schlein is an ultramarathon runner in his spare time, and at times it seemed his testimony was also an endurance competition. Schlein had a pattern of being dismissive and nitpicky in response to plaintiff attorney Alan Exelrod’s questioning, then switching to be much friendlier and open for Lynne Hermle, his firm’s defense lawyer.

Lane, meanwhile, was generally more even-keeled. Since the events in question, he has retired from an active role at the firm. In a previous life, he served in the armed forces, and today he sort of presents like a retired general.

Perhaps the biggest gotcha moment of the day was a revelation that Mary Meeker, the famous internet analyst who joined Kleiner Perkins in 2010, was apparently excluded from the senior and most lucrative role for perhaps a year on the fund she helps run, during an era that predates that Pao lawsuit.

This was according to a November 2011 document surfaced by Exelrod, which included the list of managing partners on the Kleiner Perkins Digital Growth Fund (internally called DGF): Brook Byers, John Doerr, Bing Gordon, Bill Joy, Ray Lane and Ted Schlein. They are all men.

Meeker is and has been one of the main leaders of DGF, which is dedicated to Kleiner Perkins’ late-stage Internet investments, such as Square, Waze, Spotify and Lending Club. It was not immediately clear why she was excluded from the documents.

The discrepancy is important because managing partners share in the returns for funds, meaning they have huge upside if investments do well.

When asked about it on the stand, both Lane and Schlein testified that they thought Meeker would have been a managing partner at the time, because she runs DGF. But apparently she was not.

Exelrod suggested Meeker only got the title and the riches associated with managing partner after Ellen Pao filed her lawsuit. He was unable to prove the point yet, but it was clear that the plaintiff will return to this issue at a later date.

The trial has established that a lack of human resources oversight seems to have been a long-time problem for Kleiner Perkins.

On the stand, Lane admitted to mistakes in how he handled personnel decisions.

For instance, Lane helped support and promote former Kleiner Perkins partner Ajit Nazre even after he had initially — though apparently only briefly — lied about having an extramarital affair with Ellen Pao. And after another former Kleiner Perkins partner, Trae Vassallo, complained that she’d been harassed, also by Nazre, Lane did not initially report and escalate the incident, saying he wanted to wait for her to talk to her husband and decide how to handle it.

But Lane rejected claims from Pao and Vassallo that he had told Vassallo — perhaps jokingly — that she “should be flattered” by Nazre’s attention. “It’s just not me,” he said. “I would never say something like that. The first time I heard those words were in the press.”

And Lane said he meant no slight at all when he asked Vassallo and Pao to take notes on a whiteboard at an offsite strategy meeting. In retrospect, he said, he “sincerely apologizes” for that mistake.

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