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Ex-Pantheon principal sues firm over “hen party” jibe

25 Sep 2012

Former Pantheon principal Carol Foster has become the second female private equity employee in four months to sue a firm for gender discrimination.

Foster claims she missed out on promised financial benefits and lost sales territory to junior male employees according to a lawsuit filed with the Superior Court of California.

She also says one of the senior male partners at the firm mocked her gathering of powerful women in private equity as a “hen party”.

The lawsuit is the second of its type to hit the industry this year, following venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers partner Ellen Pao’s decision to sue for sexual harassment and discrimination.

Pao claims former KPCB partner Ajit Nazre threatened to damage her career after she refused his sexual advances, and said when she complained to managing partner Ray Lane he suggested she should marry the man.

She also accuses fellow partner Randy Komisar of inappropriate behaviour including giving her sexually-themed poetry by Leonard Cohen as a Valentine’s Day gift.

The lawsuit says the firm habitually discriminated against women by offering them fewer board seats, a lower percentage of profits and leaving them out of exclusive business dinners as they would “kill the buzz”.

Those allegations were described as “false” by KPCB partner John Doerr.

Foster spent more than three years at Pantheon before she was sacked in December 2011 for failing to meet her sales goals, the lawsuit says.

She claims the firm had spent the previous two years chipping away at her responsibilities and failed to pay her carried interest she says she was due in 2009 or 2010.

The lawsuit goes on to say that male employees who had not met sales targets were not fired when she was, adding her performance rating was “exceeds expectations” for the previous year.

The lawsuit is in Superior Court of California, San Francisco County, CGC 12-524020.

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