Hyperloop One dismissed claims made in an explosive lawsuit that co-founder Shervin Pishevar had an improper relationship with a vendor — an employee from public relations firm Pramana Collective to whom he was for a time engaged, before terminating the relationship.
"The salacious personal attacks on Shervin are lies, as no decision to hire, increase the compensation of, or terminate Pramana was made in any way based on Shervin's one-time relationship with the Pramana representative. To suggest otherwise is sexist and demeaning to a highly successful female leader in the PR industry," wrote attorney Orin Snyder in the countersuit filed Tuesday.
The plaintiffs lawsuit, filed last week, alleges that Hyperloop One paid about $400,000 for PR services between January 2015 and March 2016 to a woman who was the girlfriend of Shervin Pishevar, managing director of Sherpa Capital and co-founder and executive chairman of Hyperloop One.
The payments started at $15,000 per month and reached as high as $40,000 per month, the original suit alleges, "far above market value."
Hyperloop One said the company hired Pramana Collective at a starting rate of $15,000 — and was given a limited time reduction in price because they were a startup with very little financing at the time.
Once Hyperloop One secured its initial round of financing — and Pramana had secured some publicity for the company — Pramana's role was expanded and the vendor upped its pricing to the typical $40,000 monthly retainer.
"The relationship had absolutely nothing to do with the increase in Pramana's compensation to its normal rates," the countersuit claims.
Hyperloop One's lawyers said that Pishevar's relationship with the Pramana employee began after Pramana was hired and that the relationship was disclosed to both firms. Once the couple became engaged, the Pramana employee transitioned the account to a colleague in order to avoid the appearance of any impropriety.