Hyperloop One has now sued its cofounder, claiming he was in on a plot to take over the company.
In the new counter-complaint, Hyperloop One alleges that its cofounder Brogan BamBrogan was part of a "Gang of Four" attempting to manufacture and incite conflict "in a transparent attempt to seize control of the company."
The other alleged members of the "Gang of Four" include former Hyperloop One employees Knut Sauer, David Pendergast, and William Mulholland.
"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," the lawsuit filed Tuesday in the Superior Court of Los Angeles states. "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."
The complaint sounds closer to a script of "Silicon Valley" than a typical business lawsuit. In it, the company claims that:
- The four employees "attempted to lead a mutiny of key employees" to destroy its relationships with investors and launch a competing company: Hyperloop Two. BamBrogan had already set aside $250,000 of his own money and had already purchased the domain name, , says the complaint.
- Their families had to be in the office during negotiations, including BamBrogan's pregnant wife and his chihuahua. According to the claim, "In a perplexing and disturbing act befitting their unprofessionalism, BamBrogan and Pendergast insisted that their family members--including, for Pendergast, his wife and two children--be present at the Company's headquarters during heated discussions. At the climax of these discussions with Rob Lloyd, the Company's CEO, Pendergast demanded that the CEO fire him--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!"
- The story about a hangman's noose was "tabloid fodder and fiction". Hyperloop One says it was a rope tied with a lasso knot left on BamBrogan's desk where he kept his trademark hat. "When BamBrogan discovered the lasso, he placed it on a chair and wheeled it around the office in a display of over-dramatization and plea for attention that had become his hallmark. This was hardly the conduct of a man who supposedly feared for his life." The company's general counsel, Afshin Pishevar, who was also brother to the company's cofounder, Shervin Pishevar, admitted to creating it but said it was a lasso. He was terminated it anyways.
- The company says it "never would have hired BamBrogan to work for it" if it had known about his history as a "below-average engineer". Rather, the company describes its cofounder as a person with a "long history of instability, misbehavior, unprofessionalism, and sexism." According to the complaint, he allegedly once boasted to a friend that visited the office and said "Can you believe all these b----s work for me?"
- The company tried to respond to the demands of a letter signed by 11 employees, but refused to add BamBrogan to the board. "It was clear that, despite the Company's good faith efforts to address employee concerns, the Gang of Four was hell- bent on pursuing their conspiracy to grab power, enrich themselves, and hurt the Company and its lead investor," the claim states.
"Today's lawsuit demonstrates that these four men staged a failed coup to try to take over Hyperloop One and then conspired to start their own competing company," said Orin Snyder, Hyperloop's attorney and a partner at Gibson Dunn, in an emailed statement."Hyperloop One's board and management are unified in standing up to this illicit attack on the company, and today the company is stronger than ever in its mission to bring the Hyperloop to the world."
BamBrogan was the technical brains of Hyperloop One, which hopes to transport people around the world much more quickly than trains or cars by firing them along a tube. The idea originally came from SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk, but he's letting other companies actually develop the technology.
"The manufactured coup has failed, but the Gang of Four must be held responsible for their illegal actions," the company wrote.