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Why Did Ellen Pao File to Appeal? Here's One Expensive Reason.

Kleiner Perkins is expected to disclose that Pao recently asked the firm for $2.7 million in order to not appeal.

Asa Mathat for Re/code

Less than a week after she said in a wide-ranging interview on the Code Conference stage that she was happy to get back to work at Reddit, that she never intended to become a symbol and that she just wanted to tell her story, Ellen Pao formally said on Monday that she plans to appeal the March 27 jury verdict against her gender discrimination case.

The move had many people, myself included, wondering how those two frames of mind could be reconciled.

According to people close to the case, it may just come down to the mammoth legal fees in the trial that pitted Pao against her former employer, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Those sources noted that this notice of appeal is more likely a play for leverage in the ongoing fight over who will pay for millions of dollars in court costs.

In fact, other sources said, another filing by Kleiner Perkins that’s expected later this week will disclose some behind-the-scenes drama, with Pao apparently having recently asked the venture firm for some $2.7 million in order to not appeal.

How does that make sense given everything else said and done?

To begin with, Pao had until June 8 to file a notice of appeal, so she beat the deadline by just a week. The filing she made is a simple piece of paper that only costs $100 and gives her 40 days to actually specify anything more about what the appeal would be based on.

That buys her and her lawyers some time for the next looming deadline, a hearing in front of Judge Harold Kahn — which is currently set for June 18 — to resolve the bill for the trial’s costs.

Pushing out the threat of appeal beyond that date rather than allowing it to expire could possibly give Pao and her lawyers leverage over Kleiner Perkins, which has lots of money and, more to the point, really wants this whole thing to be done.

But in preparation for the June 18 hearing, the two sides have revealed in court filings their wildly divergent expectations of who owes what. First, Kleiner Perkins asked Pao for nearly $1 million in costs, primarily for expert witnesses, and said it would waive the bill if Pao did not appeal. The firm also disclosed that it had offered to settle the case with Pao before it went to trial — also for nearly $1 million.

In their own filed response two weeks later, Pao’s lawyers said that the early settlement offer was made in bad faith, because her trial costs had already reached more than $650,000 before it even started, and that the $1 million in Kleiner Perkins trial costs was exorbitant and excessive.

Then on Monday, Pao filed her notice of appeal. That doesn’t disqualify her from Kleiner’s million-dollar offer to cover its own expert fees — it’s still on the table.

So will Pao actually appeal? She has received a lot of goodwill over the past two months, with many people — especially women in the technology industry — saying they respect that she took the personal risk to speak out about sexism. When I talked to Pao after her session at Code, we were interrupted multiple times by attendees who wanted to pay their respects. An appeal could keep this gender problem in the headlines, rather than letting it slink back into obscurity.

But Pao herself has articulated many reasons why she would want to move on. She’s told her story, and she’s endured the very public process that indelibly attached her name to this cause. Now, she can presumably get back to the interesting and difficult work of running a massive online community site.

During the Code onstage interview, Pao was asked by an audience member: Now that you have become a leader and a symbol for the larger issue of gender discrimination, will you carry it forward? She replied: “It’s not my personality. I’m much more of an introvert. … I think going out and being successful in my job as CEO of Reddit will be hopefully helpful for other people. And then maybe after that I’ll have something to talk about. But right now I’m going to do my job, and hopefully do really well at it.”

Which would seem to support this theory that the appeal filing is a matter of nuts and bolts, not of grabbing the flag and running it higher up the mountain.

Reps for both Pao and Kleiner Perkins declined to comment.

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