Recently departed Hyperloop One co-founder Brogan BamBrogan has filed a restraining order against the company’s former head of legal Afshin Pishevar and a lawsuit against both Afshin and his brother and BamBrogan’s former startup partner Shervin Pishevar.
Hyperloop One, the brainchild of Elon Musk to transport people and goods across the country at 700 mph in a vacuum tube, has raised $92 million so far, largely backed by Shervin Pishevar’s VC firm Sherpa Capital. Pishevar is the board chair and co-founded the company with BamBrogan.
But BamBrogan abruptly left the company last week without explanation, replaced by Josh Geigel as the new co-founder and CTO. The sudden departure follows another immediate removal of Afshin. Recode, which first reported Afshin’s departure, also noted that assistant general counsel David Pendergast left around the same time.
Afshin also allegedly threatened BamBrogan, according to the court documents, as well as footage from a surveillance camera, by placing a hangman’s noose on BamBrogan’s chair after a dispute between BamBrogan and Shervin about a trip to Russia. Hyperloop One announced it partnered with the Russian government in June to build a transit system in Moscow.
Neither Hyperloop One or BamBrogan were available for comment at the time we first published but Hyperloop has added a comment on the suit below.
According to a source familiar with the matter, things had been tense at the top for some time. According to the filings, BamBrogan was forced to resign from his position.
BamBrogan requested a temporary restraining order against Afshin after the incident in mid- June and has filed four court documents in the case, including the temporary restraining order and a civil harassment restraining order, as first reported by BuzzFeed. The restraining order hearing is scheduled for this Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
There’s been much skepticism over Hyperloop’s technology, but the hefty funding and leadership gave the company a boost and some credibility. However, the recent lawsuit alleges the technology and executive team may not be all we’ve been led to believe.
The filings, which name Shervin, Afshin, Joe Lonsdale, Robert Lloyd and Hyperloop One as defendants, claim the technology that BamBrogan and other plaintiffs — Dr. Knut Sauer, David Pendergast and William Mulholland — helped to build is being “strangled by the mismanagement and greed of the venture capitalists who control the company.”
On top of that, the suit claims several employees had complained to Shervin about technological issues but were ignored and that the defendants violated labor laws and used the company to boost their romantic lives, personal brands and wallets.
Part of the complaint personally attacks Shervin, accusing him of dating the company’s PR vendor and increasing her salary from $15,000 to $40,000 a month.
“Those with the expertise to bring the hyperloop concept to fruition—the team that has done an incredible job building out hardware with their heads down and hands in the dirt—have been systematically marginalized,” reads the court document. “…while the ‘money men’ who do not understand the technology spent little time seeking to understand its potential, focusing instead on puffery—turning the company into a marketing-driven exercise, instead of the engineering-driven enterprise it should be.”
A Hyperloop One spokesperson responded to the accusations with another statement, calling the lawsuit brought by former employees of Hyperloop One “unfortunate and delusional.”
“These employees tried to stage a coup and failed,” reads the statement. “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.”
Update: the plaintiff’s attorney Justin Berger sent out a statement this afternoon countering Hyperloop One’s statement saying it was “long on rhetoric and short on facts.”
“The company’s spin is belied by the facts and the chronology of events, as laid out in great detail in the Complaint,” Berger said. “Plaintiffs and seven other top employees quietly approached the Defendants in May with reasonable proposals to set the company back on the right track. They were met with hostility, threats of costly legal fights, and a noose. Defendants violated California law and they will be held accountable.”
The court documents on the lawsuit are below: