The legal drama surrounding Hyperloop One is reaching terminal velocity. A week after co-founder Brogan BamBrogan filed an explosive lawsuit against the startup, his former partners are hitting back by filing a countersuit claiming BamBrogan attempted to sabotage the futuristic transportation company.
According to court documents, Shervin Pishevar, co-founder of Hyperloop One, and Rob Lloyd, CEO, accuse BamBrogan, the former co-founder and chief technology officer, of undermining the company with its investors. They say that when BamBrogan failed to win more control for himself, he attempted to set up his own competing company, even going so far as to register the domain name “Hyperloop Two.” And they claim that the length of rope that Pishevar’s brother, Afshin, left on BamBrogan’s desk was not a hangman’s noose, as claimed in BamBrogan’s suit, but actually a “lasso,” a reference to BamBrogan’s own cowboy-like persona.
In a statement, a lawyer representing Pishevar and Lloyd says that BamBrogan and his fellow plaintiffs “staged a failed coup to try to take over Hyperloop One and then conspired to start their own competing company. They engaged in gross misconduct in pursuit of their illegal plan and will now be held fully accountable in a court of law.”
Here are the countersuit’s main assertions:
BamBrogan and his plaintiffs are given a Communist-linked nickname
BamBrogan and his fellow plaintiffs, VP for business development and sales Knut Sauer, assistant general counsel David Pendergast, and VP of finance William Mulholland, are named the “Gang of Four” in the countersuit. It’s a nickname rich in Communist Party history, as well as the English post-punk movement in the late 1970s. Here, it’s just a label with a vaguely thuggish connotation.
The Gang were also conspirators
According to the countersuit, “The Gang of Four sowed the seeds of their illegal conspiracy after increasingly disruptive misconduct, after learning they would be terminated, or learning they would be passed over for advancement. Thus, these conspirators had every incentive to either overthrow the Company’s leadership, or leave and inflict maximum damage to pave the way for their own competing Hyperloop venture.”
BamBrogan has anger issues
“BamBrogan was well known for screaming at and berating employees and co-workers, often using obscenities... He [especially] took out his aggression on female employees. On one occasion, he became irrationally enraged and took out his anger on a female employee by screaming at her inches from her face, then punching a wall, and stepping outside to loudly smash beer bottles in anger.”
Hyperloop One was in the process of addressing BamBrogan’s complaints
In his lawsuit, BamBrogan said he was dismayed by perceived mismanagement at the company. He sent letter signed by 11 employees to Pishevar, Lloyd, and Joe Lonsdale, vice chair of the company’s board of directors, “about the breaches of fiduciary duty they had witnessed, and changes necessary to set the company on a course for long-term success.”
In their countersuit, Pishevar, Lloyd, and Lonsdale say that in response to the letter, they “agreed to implement the reasonable demands, including reasonable changes to the Company’s equity compensation program for employees and adding the Company’s top.” But they balked at BamBrogan’s demands to “eject the Company’s founding investors and core leadership and replace them with members of the Gang, including the unstable, erratic, and abusive BamBrogan.”
Hyperloop Two, or Too?
His coup averted, BamBrogan allegedly set out to start his own hyperloop company, creatively titled “Hyperloop Two” or “NewCo.” He even went so far as to purchase the domain name “hyperlooptoo.com,” the countersuit alleges.
The noose was actually a lasso
The most explosive allegation in BamBrogan’s suit is the claim that Afshin Pishevar, then special counsel at Hyperloop One, left a “hangman’s noose” on his desk as a threat. He even included grainy security footage of Pishevar with the rope, along with another photo of BamBrogan holding it up after finding it.
But the noose wasn’t actually a noose, the countersuit claims, but rather “a rope tied with a lasso knot, not a hangman’s knot, left on the desk where BamBrogan’s keeps his trademark cowboy hat.” BamBrogan also often wore cowboy boots, a mustache, and would yell “yeehaw” when excited. The rope was meant to signal to BamBrogan to tone down his cowboy attitude, the countersuit claims.
Pishevar disclosed his relationship with Hyperloop One’s PR flack
BamBrogan claimed Pishevar gave Hyperloop One’s PR representative a huge raise — from $15,000 a month to $40,000 — after he began dating her. But the countersuit says the relationship was entirely proper.
The relationship had absolutely nothing to do with the increase in Pramana’s compensation to its normal rates. Shervin’s relationship with the Pramana representative began after Pramana was hired. The relationship was disclosed to the Company and Pramana. After they were engaged, the Pramana representative began a process to avoid any appearance of a conflict by adding a co-founder of Pramana to co-lead the Hyperloop One account and who was then transitioned to solely lead the account.
Update July 19th, 4:11PM ET: BamBrogan’s lawyer responded to the countersuit, claiming it “goes beyond revisionist history--it's pure fiction.” They offer a point-by-point refutation of the claims made in Pishevar, Lloyd, and Lonsdale’s suit, including the assertion that the noose/lasso “was a threat of violence, and even [the] company recognized it as such -- firing Afshin immediately and hiring armed security guards to patrol the campus after the noose was left.”
BamBrogan admits to registering the domain name “HyperloopToo.com,” but says he did so as a “joke” with coworkers “never intended for business.” He says he has no idea who registered the domain “HyerploopTwo.com.”
“Knowing their improper actions made them culpable, Defendants fabricated a story, put part of it out in a so-called statement and then expanded it in their court papers,” BamBrogan’s attorney says.