* Former principal Foster asks for punitive damages
* Alleges responsibilities given to younger, male colleagues
* Meeting of female executives derided as 'hen party'
By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept 24 A former principal at
Pantheon Ventures, Carol Foster, has sued the firm for gender
and age discrimination, as well as defamation, according to a
lawsuit filed in Superior Court of California.
The suit charges that Foster, a principal in her late 40s,
missed out on key financial benefits the firm had promised her
and lost sales territory to younger male colleagues, while a
senior male partner derided her gathering of high-profile women
in private equity as a "hen party".
Foster is asking for compensatory, punitive and special
Pantheon representatives did not immediately respond to
telephone and e-mailed requests for comment.
Lawsuits over accusations of gender discrimination have been
rare in the male-dominated world of venture capital.
But four months ago, Ellen Pao, a partner at storied venture
firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, sued that firm for sexual
harassment and discrimination. The case has become one of the
most talked-about events in Silicon Valley.
Like Pao, a graduate of Harvard and Princeton, Foster
attended prestigious schools and has an impressive resume. She
holds a business degree from Columbia University and worked at
Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch.
Pantheon specializes in helping institutions invest in
venture capital and private equity. With $23.9 billion under
management in Europe, the United States and Asia, it is one of
the field's larger players.
Foster started at the firm in September 2008 as head of the
$10 billion North American Client Service, according to the
suit, but things quickly turned sour.
Shortly after she joined, the management team decided to
merge her team with another, and Foster was given responsibility
for managing relationships with clients in several parts of the
From 2009, the suit states, the company started chipping
away at those responsibilities, including taking away all her
East Coast clients and giving them to a new colleague. Another
principal with existing clients on the East Coast had to give up
only his prospects, not his clients, to the new hire.
With less territory, Foster believed she would not be able
to sell as many of Pantheon's products to clients, the suit
states. The cutbacks coincided with a weak fundraising market
for fund-of-funds, one of Pantheon's main businesses.
Foster believes her compensation package was less than the
compensation for male colleagues of similar positions, the suit
says. Her offer letter from September 2008 stated the firm would
award her a key financial payment known as carried interest, but
she received no carried interest payments in 2009 or 2010, the
suit says. She got her first carried interest awards in July
On Dec. 14, 2011, Foster's direct manager, Kevin Albert,
terminated her employment for not making her sales goals and
lacking the "characteristics of a good salesperson". For the
prior year, her performance rating was "exceeds expectations".
Other male employees, including Albert, had not made their
sales goals but were not terminated, the suit states.
Just prior to her termination, Foster had organized a dinner
for women in private equity, attended by a number of
high-profile women who were clients or prospective clients. The
next morning, Albert e-mailed her and asked: "How was the hen
After her termination, Albert told Pantheon staff members
Foster's employment had been terminated for performance issues,
the lawsuit states. He also told a former client of Foster's
that she could not "close on money with new clients".
Pantheon, now owned by senior partners and Affiliated
Managers Group, was originally formed in London in 1982
as the private-equity arm of GT Management.
The lawsuit is in Superior Court of California, San
Francisco County, CGC 12-524020.