Correction: There was no hangman's noose, claims Hyperloop countersuit ... it was a cowboy's lasso
Oh, and BamBrogan's a childish drunken misogynist, allegedly
An extraordinary fight at tube-travel company Hyperloop One has hit warp speed with a court filing filled with more wild claims.
Faced with accusations of physical threats, financial mismanagement and nepotism in a lawsuit from its former CTO Brogan BamBrogan, the company's management has fired back with a 46-page cross-complaint [PDF] accusing him of everything from misogyny to drunken rants.
BamBrogan and the three former employees acting as co-plaintiffs in the lawsuit attempted and failed to take over the company, the countersuit alleges, and then launched their legal challenge in a last-ditch attempt to damage the company.
As well as piling insults on BamBrogan and his co-workers, the suit denies the two most eye-catching claims of the original lawsuit:
- The company's general counsel, Afshin Pishevar, left a hangman's noose on BamBrogan's chair.
- The company's chairman – Afshin's brother Shervin – tripled the salary paid to its PR advisor shortly after he started sleeping with her.
The company doesn't deny that either event happened, but that the hangman's noose wasn't a noose, the response claims, but a lasso to indicate that BamBrogan was "acting like a cowboy."
Afshin was angered by BamBrogan's stunts. Afshin left a rope with a lasso knot on BamBrogan's office chair next to the white cowboy hat that BamBrogan loved to wear and always kept at his table. Upon seeing the rope, BamBrogan lost his temper. He declared the rope a 'noose,' paraded it around the office, and photographed himself with it. Afshin always maintained that the rope was a lasso for someone acting like a cowboy.
The lawyer was immediately fired as a result of his actions, but BamBrogan added security footage and a picture of himself holding up the rope to his lawsuit. To be fair to Hyperloop One, the picture does clearly show it is a lasso rather than a noose.
As to the $40,000 paid to the company's PR advisor, the countersuit does not deny the sum or the romantic relationship, but argues that "the increase from an initial discounted $15,000 rate to the PR firm's standard $40,000 monthly rate was due to the expanded scope of the firm's work and the company's ability to pay it, not Shervin's relationship."
It also uses the "offensive allegation" to embark on a lengthy effort to paint BamBrogan as a sexist pig.
"He was rarely in the office," the cross-complaint argues. "When he was at the office, BamBrogan was well known for screaming at and berating employees and co-workers, often using obscenities. He began engaging in brazen sexism. BamBrogan repeatedly antagonized female partners, vendors, and employees." Later on it claims that he "took out his aggression on female employees."
The money-for-favors accusation "misogynistically discredits the talent and qualifications of this accomplished professional and her highly respected firm in a cheap grab at a suggestive headline."
The firm in question – The Pramana Collective – was founded by three former comms directors of Facebook, Twitter and Skype and is not a one-woman show, suggesting again that the original lawsuit's accusation was playing loose and fast with the facts.
But any suggestion that the company may wish to take the high ground is left in the dust through repeated character assassinations of the plaintiffs and BamBrogan in particular.
It reads at one point: "BamBrogan built himself up as a major contributor at his previous employer when, in fact, he was a slightly below-average engineer who failed to disclose to the company that the last project he worked on for his previous employer had failed.
"BamBrogan had become increasingly disruptive to the Company with his profane, erratic, sexist, and inebriated outbursts toward management, fellow employees, and outside consultants, including screaming in the face of a co-worker for no rational reason, punching a wall, and breaking a beer bottle."
Elsewhere: "BamBrogan has had a long history of instability, misbehavior, unprofessionalism, and sexism."
Also: "BamBrogan was erratic, immature, and unprofessional. At one point during his short-lived stint as the Company's interim CEO, BamBrogan boasted to a friend visiting the office: 'Can you believe all these bitches work for me?'"
And: "BamBrogan often appeared inebriated at the office (with liquor on his breath) and during late-night screaming rants with the Company's leadership."
The real issue
At the heart of the breakdown in the relationship between staff and management, however, were staff complaints over how they were being compensated.
Following a rebellion seemingly led by BamBrogan which led to no fewer than 12 employees threatening to leave the company, the management agreed to share some of the wealth around.
According to the cross-complaint, they agreed to expand the equity pool to employees from 15 to 20 per cent, offer more shares in the company to employees, change buyback language in their contracts, and add two new Board seats, including one for an engineer.
The company also agreed to make changes that appear to reflect another two key complaints listed in BamBrogan's lawsuit, including "new policies to ensure consistent interviewing and hiring practices" – the lawsuit claimed that nepotism was rife at the company – and "new policies to minimize use of the workplace for non-work functions" – the lawsuit claimed that engineers were frequently disrupted by tours of minor celebrities at the offices.
Why didn't those compromises resolve the issue?
According to the cross-complaint, it was because management refused to yield control of the company to BamBrogan. They refused to replace the current board of early investors and put BamBrogan on in their place. They also refused to keep on the then-assistant general counsel David Pendergast and make him general counsel, as the "Gang of Four" insisted.
The end result was that most of the staff decided to stay, except for the four plaintiffs, who left and filed their lawsuit, complete with the eye-catching accusations that made it a topic of press interest.
The cross-complaint also reveals that having failed to displace the current Board and install himself, BamBrogan attempted to set up a rival company called Hyperloop Two. He allegedly tried to poach some staff to set it up, offering to put in $250,000 of his own money to get it up and running.
The domain names 'hyperlooptwo.com' and 'hyperloop2.com' were registered around the same time but with registrant details hidden behind a privacy setting. Not so 'hyperlooptoo.com', which was registered later that same month with BamBrogan's personal details.
In short: advantage Hyperloop One. ®