About 6 months ago, Silicon Valley VC firm Kleiner Perkins won a jury verdict in former employee Ellen Pao’s high-profile gender discrimination jury trial. (See the Law Talk discussion of the verdict here.)
A few weeks later, an interesting (and expected) follow-up issue emerged: litigation costs. Pursuant to the “American Rule” that sometimes shifts a lawsuit winner’s costs to the loser, Kleiner asked Ms. Pao to reimburse its litigation costs in the amount of $973,000. But in an unusual twist, Kleiner offered to waive its right to recover litigation costs if Ms. Pao agreed not to appeal the trial court decision. Christina Lee, a spokeswoman for Kleiner, had the following explanation in a statement quoted in several newspapers and magazines at that time: “We believe that women in technology would be best served by having all parties focus on making progress on the issues of gender diversity outside of continued litigation.” Law Talk discussed these litigation cost issues here, and concluded with the anticipatory “to be continued.”
In June, Ms. Pao proceeded with an appeal.
And just last week, Ms. Pao announced that she was dropping her appeal, and without any settlement agreeement. According to a statement that she released to the Wall Street Journal, Kleiner offered her a settlement agreement with financial benefits (presumably forgiveness of the debt concerning court costs), but only if she refrained from “disparaging” Kleiner. She said in her statement: “Settlement might have provided me with financial benefits, but only at the great cost of silence. I feel gratified that my actions have encouraged others to speak up about discrimination in venture capital and technology more broadly. I am encouraged that companies are taking more action to quantify and address the disparity of opportunities for women and minorities.”
Despite her refusal to “sell” her ability to speak out, she nonetheless explained her decision to drop the appeal as being financial, saying that she could no longer afford to continue. (An article in the Huffington Post provides more details.)
It’s still not clear how much of Kleiner’s costs Ms. Pao needs to pay. She’s reportedly paying $276,000 (down from the $973,000 requested in April), but a Fortune article analyzes several aspects of uncertainty about the final amount that she’s paying, and concludes that “this is all over. Sort of. »
So we have an incomplete dénoument or coda, depending on your preferred art form metaphor.
To be continued? Maybe, and maybe not . . .