Venture capital firm sues ex-Uber CEO for fraud

One Of Uber's Largest Investors Just Sued Former CEO Travis Kalanick

One of Uber Technologies Inc.'s largest shareholders on Thursday sued the ride-hailing firm's former chief Travis Kalanick in a fight over board seats. By not disclosing potential missteps and infractions - which encompasses a number of things, including a heated legal battle with Google over ostensibly stolen driverless vehicle technology - Benchmark argues that it wouldn't have agreed to the board of director's collective decision to add three new seats.

Benchmark further says that in moving to add the three board seats previous year, Kalanick "intentionally concealed and failed to disclose his gross mismanagement and other misconduct at Uber" which they say included "pervasive gender discrimination and sexual harassment".

"Kalanick's improper role on the board threatens the sound management of Uber during this critical period", the suit states. Benchmark is said to have spearheaded the investor push to remove Kalanick from the company after months of self-inflicted scandals thoroughly tarnished Uber's reputation. It's the latest sign that, despite Kalanick's recent resignation from Uber, the company continues to find itself immeshed in Kalanick-related chaos. Tensions between Uber and Benchmark have remained high, which Axios says has contributed to the slow pace in finding a new CEO.

The case is virtually unprecedented, since venture capital firms strive to maintain an image as friendly to founders. "Moreover, the value of Benchmark's investment in Uber is significantly threatened by Kalanick's continued presence on the board".

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The fraud suit goes back to a stockholder vote last summer that expanded the Uber board by three members and gave Kalanick the right to appoint those new members.

The move comes at a time when the company has run into a number of controversies, including sexism charges leveled by a former employee, the exit of some key executives and a lawsuit from self-driving vehicle rival Waymo. The firm first invested in 2011 and at present holds about 20% of Uber's voting power, 36% of preferred stock voting power, and 0.5% of Uber's class B common stock, according to the complaint. In addition, Benchmark alleges that Kalanick has refused to follow through on a previous agreement to make the two board seats open to approval by the entire board of directors.

The filing alleges that Kalanick made "material misstatements" and hid crucial information about company problems from the board in order to attain more power there.

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