Joe Lonsdale, the co-founder of Palo Alto software company Palantir and a partner at the venture capital firm Formation 8, has been accused of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and other charges in a civil lawsuit filed on Jan. 27 in San Francisco.
Elise Clougherty, whom the lawsuit describes as a former Formation 8 intern and resident of Vienna, Virginia, is named as the plaintiff.
According to the lawsuit, Clougherty and Lonsdale began a romantic relationship in February 2012 after becoming connected in the High Technology Entrepreneurship program at Stanford University, where Clougherty was an undergraduate. Lonsdale is a Stanford alumnus.
The lawsuit alleges that the relationship became abusive after Lonsdale "continuously and systemically subjected Ms. Clougherty to repeated and incessant sexual assaults and abuse, employing psychological manipulation and coercion in order to confuse, isolate, and otherwise disorient Ms. Clougherty from appreciating the true danger of her situation," the complaint claims.
As a result, Clougherty became "damaged and injured physically, emotionally, and financially," and suffered from "pain, anxiety, depression, severe emotional distress, embarrassment, ridicule, and PTSD, as well as loss of health, future relationships, income, employment, and future career benefits and earning potential," the lawsuit reads.
In February 2013, Clougherty and her family reported Lonsdale's actions to Stanford, and the university retained an outside investigator to look into the allegations, according to the lawsuit. The outside investigator found that Lonsdale had "engaged in conduct meeting the definitions of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct under Stanford's Title IX policy, and that it was 'more likely than not that (Ms. Clougherty) expressed to (Mr. Lonsdale) that she did not want to engage in the sexual conduct in question, but that (Mr. Lonsdale) did not comply with (her) request,'" according to the lawsuit.
As a result of the investigation, Stanford banned Lonsdale from the Stanford campus for a minimum of 10 years, according to the lawsuit.
Lonsdale has denied all claims against him and is preparing to file a countersuit for defamation.
"The lawsuit is a vile collection of lies and a transparent attempt to destroy the reputation and good name of Joe Lonsdale," Kristen Dumont, Lonsdale's lawyer, wrote in a statement to technology-news website TechCrunch. "For nearly two years, Mr. Lonsdale has been eagerly waiting to tell the truth and to fight these defamatory and outlandish allegations. Sunlight is always the best disinfectant and we welcome this fight and our day in court, where facts trump fiction."
The lawsuit also includes a charge of negligent retention and supervision against Formation 8.
Clougherty, who is represented by Hutchinson Black and Cook in Boulder, L. Lin Wood in Atlanta, and the Liu Law Firm in San Francisco, is seeking a jury trial and monetary damages of at least $75,000.
The lawsuit does not involve Stanford University, said Lisa Lapin, associate vice president for university communications. And with respect to the university investigation, federal privacy laws prohibit the university from commenting on the situation, but Lapin said, "Generally ... when the university conducts any investigation, our process allows both parties an opportunity to be heard and to present relevant evidence. In all cases, we endeavor to be fair to both sides."