The legal battle threatening the very future of Hyperloop just got nastier. Today, Hyperloop One countersued its co-founder and former CTO Brogan BamBrogan and three others, with a story full of shouting, sexist remarks, inebriation, and an attempted mutiny.
Last week, BamBrogan and three colleagues sued Hyperloop One and four executives, accusing them of everything from breach of fiduciary duty to violating labor laws to inflicting emotional duress. Among other things, the suit—which really is insane—alleges that general counsel Afshin Pishevar left a noose on BamBrogan’s desk and co-founder Shervin Pishevar wildly overpaid his fiancée.
The countersuit is no less crazy, offering a rebuttal to every allegation. David Pendergast claims he was fired in front of his family. Well, the countersuit alleges he was “shrieking, with his children and wife beside him, ‘If you’re going to fire me, do it now! Fire me! Fire me right here and now!’”
That letter BamBrogan et al say they sent to management complaining about the “misuse of company resources and corporate waste”? The countersuit says it was stuffed with unreasonable demands, and that “these men never were interested in negotiating in good faith.”
Did Afshin Pishevar really leave a hangman’s noose on BamBrogan’s desk? No, no, no, the countersuit alleges, it was “a rope tied with a lasso knot,” left alongside BamBrogan’s “trademark cowboy hat.” The company canned Pishevar anyway for the “ill-considered” move.
But what about the original suit’s claim that the company bumped its PR rep’s monthly pay from $15,000 to $40,000 after she became Shervin Pishevar’s fiancée? The timing doesn’t check out, the countersuit says, and in any case that is “the PR firm’s standard monthly rate.”
The countersuit says that BamBrogan is not the talented, mistreated worker he claims, but “a slightly below average engineer” who didn’t mention his last project at his former job was a failure.
It also accuses him of “profane, erratic, sexist, and inebriated outbursts,” including punching a wall and breaking a beer bottle. According to the suit, he is “egomaniacal and greedy,” and once told a friend visiting the office, “Can you believe all these bitches work for me?”
The countersuit alleges BamBrogan, Pendergast, Mulholland, and Sauer were “on notice for poor performance,” tried “to take over the company through a coordinated coup,” and put “their own greed and personal interests ahead of the company they were duty-bound to protect.”
When the plot went to pot, Hyperloop One says, “the Gang of Four”—what it calls the defendants throughout the filing—tried to hire away employees and launch a competing Hyperloop venture. The original suit, here seriously referred to as the “Sham Complaint,” “was a preemptive strike, crass media ploy, and last-ditch effort to damage the Company the Gang of Four so desperately sought to control—or compete against.”
Not content refuting the varied claims of the “Gang of Four” by “shining a spotlight on the true story of their disloyalty, incompetence, and illegal conduct,” Hyperloop One’s countersuit accuses them of breaches of fiduciary duty, the duty of loyalty, the faithless servant doctrine, and contract. In response, Justin Berger, lawyer for BamBrogan and his three allies, says the countersuit “goes beyond revisionist history—it’s pure fiction, and that will be shown by the evidence.”
Whatever the truth of all this, it’s no good for the company. Silicon Valley founders are like brothers—they fight, and things often turn out OK. But this one looks different, Martin Kenney, who edited the 2000 book Understanding Silicon Valley: The Anatomy of an Entrepreneurial Region said last week. “This looks like a company that is in trouble,” and that could scare off much-needed investors. Not to mention scuttle your dreams of zipping around the country in a tube.
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