Joe Lonsdale — a partner in the venture capital firm Formation 8 and co-founder of Palo Alto software company Palantir along with Peter Thiel and others — stands accused by a former girlfriend and onetime intern of sexual abuse and other charges in a civil lawsuit filed in San Francisco this week.
The suit accuses Lonsdale of sexually abusing Elise Clougherty, now 24, repeatedly over the course of a relationship she describes as physically and emotionally abusive. The relationship lasted from 2012 to 2013. Clougherty met Lonsdale through an entrepreneurship mentor program at Stanford, where Lonsdale is an alumnus and Clougherty was a student. Lonsdale proceeded to hire Clougherty as an intern for a brief period at Formation 8, according to the suit. Formation 8 is also named as a defendant.
According to the suit, “Mr. Lonsdale continuously and systematically 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.” Clougherty and her family reported the alleged crimes to Stanford, who banned Lonsdale from its campus for at least a decade.
But in a statement Lonsdale denies Clougherty's claims, calling her "vengeful."
For some time now, I have been defending myself against a vengeful, personal attack by a disturbed former girlfriend. This is a woman that I dated for a year and whom many of you knew. Shortly after I ended the relationship in 2013, my ex-girlfriend began a malicious campaign of lies. Upset that I was not willing to continue the relationship, she contacted business associates, friends, and others advancing a repugnant and increasingly bizarre narrative of “abuse” hoping to hurt me and damage my career. To quote the words she sent in a text to her close friend, this is a “Joe take down scheme."
“This lawsuit is a vile collection of lies and a transparent attempt to destroy the reputation and good name of Joe Lonsdale,” his attorney, Kristen Dumont said. “I believe she was very guilty about violating her Catholic beliefs and having premarital sex. I believe that she is coping with her choice to have sex by claiming that Joe raped her so that she can avoid culpability for her decisions.”
In a statement provided to TechCrunch, Clougherty’s counsel said that “Our client is no longer intimidated by Mr. Lonsdale and his threats, nor is she intimidated by his crafted PR statement.”