Ousted Hyperloop One cofounder sues, claims noose was left on his desk

Brogan BamBrogan, seen here at Hyperloop One’s first public technology test,.
Image: Lance ulanoff/mashable

Brogan BamBrogan has not quietly stepped back from his chief technology officer duties at Hyperloop One.

Instead, he filed a wrongful termination lawsuit alleging nepotism and waste along with four other former Hyperloop One employees.

According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the group of former Hyperloop One employees say they were forced out after suggesting in a letter, quoted partially below, that the company, which is working on a sub-supersonic transportation system, make some changes.

BamBrogan brought the suit less than two weeks after he reportedly stepped down from the company he founded with investor Shervin Pishevar in 2015.

Primarily, we feel that a significant problem exists in the disparity between the outsized control and equity owned by Shervin Pishevar and the limited collective control and ownership by the team. Also, we don’t believe that venture capitalists should have voting control of a company which is engaged in the development of technology and deployment of infrastructure that they do not fully understand.

As it stands, the people who are inventing this technology, building it, and interacting with customers, technical partners, corporate partners, and financiers are not the ones who stand to gain the appropriate value from it’s success. In addition, there have been multiple occurrences of misuse of company resources and corporate waste by both Shervin and Joe. We have lost faith in Hyperloop Ones governance structure. These views are held widely across the company…

The letter and revelations surfaced on Tuesday after Recode uncovered the lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. The claim was subsequently posted to Scribd.com.

At the time of Bambrogan’s departure, a Hyperloop One spokesperson told Mashable, “We appreciate everything that [Bambrogan] has done to put us on the path to creating the worlds first Hyperloop.” They also claimed Bambrogan would remain with the company.

In the suit, Bambrogan claims that after he and other employees sent the letter, Shervin’s brother Afshin Pishevar left a noose on BamBrogan’s desk. The suit includes a security camera picture which it claims as proof.

Afshin Pishevar allegedly holding a noose coiled in his hand.

Image: scribd

The suit describes the situation rapidly devolving from there:

If anyone who signed the letter was found to have engaged in any misconduct, all eleven would be held accountable; if anyone talked to investors about what was happening in the company, Hyperloop One would come after them; if they did not toe the line, this would be the worst day of their lives; and they would bleed the employees dry with frivolous lawsuits.

Faced with these threats, and without other secure employment, some of the eleven have understandably stayed with the company. Others, including Plaintiffs, were left with only the opposite choice. Fearing for his physical safety, BamBrogan was forced to resign.

The suit also claims that Shervin Pishevar is uninvolved in day-to-day Hyperloop One matters, that he’s wasting the company’s cash and that the company is rife with nepotism.

From the suit:

Defendant Shervin Pishevar…began dating the companys PR vendor, and increased her salary from $15,000 to $40,000 a month, more than any employee in the company. When their subsequent wedding engagement fell through, he finally heeded suggestions that her work was worth little, and terminated the arrangement.

Also named in the suit are plaintiffs, Knut Sauer, David Pendergast and William Mullholland.

Not part of the suit, but named as an employee aware of and supporting the letter of concern to Hyperloop One management, is Josh Giegel, the man who now has BamBrogan’s CTO role at Hyperloop One.

BamBrogan and the other plaintiffs are seeking reinstatement at Hyperloop One, a public apology and for Pishevar and his co-defendants to relinquish all claims to the company.

Calling the charges in the suit “pure nonsense, Hyperloop One sent Mashable this statement:

Todays lawsuit brought by former employees of Hyperloop One is unfortunate and delusional. These employees tried to stage a coup and failed. They knew that the company was aware of their actions, and this lawsuit is their preemptive strike. The claims are pure nonsense and will be met with a swift and potent legal response.

Frivolous lawsuits like this one have become all too common against start-ups that achieve breakthrough success. It is almost a cliche. It is also a measure of Hyperloop’s success. The company continues to recruit top talent, secure significant funding from global investors and accelerate toward its technology milestones. Hyperloop is on track, its board and team are united and today’s bogus lawsuit will have no impact on its goal of becoming the first company to bring the Hyperloop to the world.

There’s no telling what effect this very public and potentially embarrassing legal battle will have on the future development of the Hyperloop One transport system, which has promised to start transporting passengers as early as 2021.

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Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/07/12/hyperloop-one-lawsuit/