Shervin Pishevar has spent years cultivating his brand as a Silicon Valley insider and parlaying that success into political influence.
Best known as an early investor in Uber, the venture capitalist has backed more than 100 start-ups, has 78,500 Twitter followers and is pals with Elon Musk. He's donated about $370,000 to Democratic candidates and groups since 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, and hosted recent fundraisers at his Bay Area house for President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
But his name is now in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In a lawsuit filed on Tuesday in Los Angeles, Pishevar stands accused of turning his latest project, Hyperloop One, into an avenue for doling out favors and for personal gain.
Brogan BamBrogan, who co-founded Hyperloop One (formerly Hyperloop Technologies) with Pishevar in 2014, is suing the company, Pishevar and three other people tied to Hyperloop One for wrongful termination, breach of contract, defamation and assault, among other charges.
BamBrogan was forced to resign from Los Angeles-based Hyperloop last month, and is fighting back along with several former employees.
According to the complaint, Pishevar hired his brother Afshin, a personal injury and criminal defense attorney on the East Coast as the company's high-paid general counsel with more stock options than top engineers received. Pishevar, Hyperloop's executive chairman, also allegedly dated the company's outside public relations representative and raised her pay from $15,000 to $40,000 a month, more than any employee. (The woman's former employer, PR firm Pramana Collective, said that the payments were to the company, not the woman specifically, and that the complaint inaccurately portrayed the two companies' professional relationship.)
The suit claims Pishevar strong-armed Hyperloop investors into putting money into his fund Sherpa Ventures.
Worse, according to the complaint, several hours after a meeting last month between Shervin and Russian investors in Moscow turned to the topic of Hyperloop's internal problems, Afshin took it upon himself to put a hangman's noose on BamBrogan's chair, an act that was caught on Hyperloop's security camera.