Stories of excess and deception in Silicon Valley seem like a trope at this point, and yet here is another one.
The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Michael Rothenberg, the 34-year-old founder of San Francisco-based Rothenberg Ventures, with overcharging investors and misappropriating about $7 million to fund his personal business ventures, as well as lavish parties and events in the Bay Area.
Rothenberg was a rising star in Silicon Valley. Growing up in a humble household in Austin, his rags-to-riches tale included Stanford and Harvard Business School diplomas before launching his venture capital firm in 2012. His early-stage fund boasts investments in three unicorn companies: Robinhood, Gusto, and SpaceX.
"Venture capital investors provide important funding for startups but there are risks, including potential harm to investors from unscrupulous managers who defraud them, as we allege Rothenberg did in this case," said C. Dabney O'Riordan, co-chief of the Enforcement Division's Asset Management Unit in a statement.
Without admitting or denying the charges, Rothenberg settled the case with the SEC Monday. After a court approves the settlement, where it will also determine the amount of disgorgement and civil money penalties owed, he will be barred from the brokerage and investment advisory business with a right to reapply in five years.
Almost immediately after, the founder also filed a lawsuit against Silicon Valley Bank, alleging that it transferred $4.25 million to the wrong bank account and thus created the illusion of misappropriating investors' money, according to Cnet. He is seeking over $100 million in damages.