Top Silicon Valley venture capitalist Shervin Pishevar has declared legal war on a Republican-driven political opposition firm, alleging that it conducted a “smear campaign” that tied him to the Russian government as well as “an incident with a prostitute in Europe.”
The defamation lawsuit filed in a San Francisco court late Monday targets Definers Public Affairs, an outfit of elite GOP operatives — led by Matt Rhoades and Joe Pounder — that only recently set up shop in Silicon Valley.
The firm represents companies, from insurance behemoths to tech giants, that seek to dig up dirt on their competitors; in a later statement to Recode, it described Pishevar’s allegations as false.
And while Pishevar said in his lawsuit that he did not know which potential competitor or enemy Definers represented — or even the stories they seeded — he charged that “one or more of his business competitors” hired the firm in a bid to “assassinate” his character “and therefore destroy his career.”
Pishevar is a well-known investor in several of Silicon Valley’s most prominent companies, including Uber, Hyperloop One, Machine Zone and Munchery. He has a proclivity for lawsuits, most recently threatening to launch several as he tried to save the reputation of former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, a close friend.
In this new lawsuit, though, Pishevar pointed to his involvement in Hyperloop One, a company he co-founded, alleging that the Republican operatives at Definers sought to push a narrative that he was able to secure investment from Russian funds in the startup because he is “an agent of the Russian government” and “a friend of Russian President, Vladimir Putin.”
Recode has not confirmed these allegations.
Hyperloop previously secured funding from Russia’s sovereign fund RDIF and Caspian VC Partners, a fund run by Russian oligarch Ziyavudin Magomedov.
Pishevar, a Democratic donor, was also a supporter of a movement for California to secede from the U.S. — another position that, according to his lawsuit, Definers allegedly used in a bid to illustrate the investor’s Russia connections.
The investor and his legal team said in the 14-page filing that Definers pushed a narrative that Pishevar “had an incident with a prostitute in Europe,” and also "paid money to settle a claim for sexual assault in London.”
In these and other charges, Pishevar and his lawyers said that his associates had contacted him about some of the allegations. The lawsuit charged that one reporter, who is unnamed, allegedly told Pishevar that there were “rumors that were circulating ... about [his] alleged sexual misconduct.”
Definers disputed those facts, describing Pishevar’s accusations as “completely false.”
“His claims are delusional, we have never engaged in any of the actions he outlined in this complaint, and Definers has never done any work with regards to Mr. Pishevar,” said Tim Miller, a partner at the firm, in a statement to Recode.
Definers officially set up shop in Silicon Valley this June, when Miller — previously the top communications aide to former Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush — relocated to the region from Washington, D.C.
Miller is not named in the lawsuit. At the time, though, he told Recode in a story previewing the firm’s expanding operation that it would seek to bring political opposition research to the tech industry.
Given the “spotlight that is on their industry,” Miller told Recode, the Valley’s biggest brands should invest more to ensure “you have positive content pushed out about your company and negative content that’s being pushed out about your competitor, or regulator, or activist groups or activist investors, that are challenging you.”
The story is cited in the lawsuit as evidence that Definers sought to target Pishevar.
Rhoades, for his part, served as Mitt Romney’s campaign manager during the 2012 election, and Pounder is one of his party’s most prominent researchers.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.