Andrew Yang’s mayoral campaign is cutting ties with one of its fundraisers, Shervin Pishevar, an investor who stepped down from his own firm in 2017 after being accused of sexual misconduct, Recode has learned.
Pishevar, a venture capitalist who made a prescient early bet in Uber, was one of three dozen names the campaign announced as being on its host committee for a Tuesday fundraiser in support of Yang’s mayoral bid in New York City. But the campaign said on Monday evening that when it approved Pishevar as a co-host, it was unaware of the well-publicized allegations against him from three years ago, raising questions about the Yang campaign’s vetting process.
“Upon learning of these allegations this evening, we promptly removed Mr. Pishevar from the 35-person host committee,” a Yang spokesperson said on Monday evening.
The spokesperson said Pishevar had yet to contribute to Yang. But campaigns typically closely scrutinize the people who serve on their host committees. Though they are not employed by the campaign, hosts offer their time and lend their credibility in pitching the event to friends and business contacts. There is a history of high-profile candidates cutting ties with fundraiser hosts who pose reputational problems to the campaign that they are trying to help.
A representative for Pishevar declined to comment. “Excited to lend my support to @AndrewYang for Mayor of NYC,” he tweeted last week. A source close to Pishevar, however, said he recently had tested positive for coronavirus and that he had postponed or withdrawn from events as he recovers.
The tech industry has had to grapple with whether or not to offer second chances to men who have admitted to or faced allegations of sexual misconduct. Not all incidents are alike, and there is a diversity of opinion in which leaders should be welcomed back into the industry, when that should happen, and what the standard should be for making sufficient amends.
Ellen Pao, a prominent leader in Silicon Valley who has tried to make the industry more equitable for women and minorities, said there were no easy answers.
“We have not decided how we want to repair things. Is Andrew Yang going to be the person who decides? Because their vetters didn’t know to look for this kind of stuff?” Pao said. “We’re on a path to just taking everyone back and having all the same problems all over again.”
Pishevar was accused of sexual assault and or harassment by five women, Bloomberg reported in late 2017. “In each case, the women accused Pishevar of exploiting a professional connection, and using the prospect of a job, mentorship or investment to make an unwanted sexual advance,” according to the news outlet.
The allegations against Pishevar were among the most prominent #MeToo storylines in Silicon Valley. The claims went beyond unsolicited comments: Multiple women told Bloomberg that Pishevar forced himself onto them and kissed them, for instance.
Pishevar’s representatives denied the allegations at the time, saying that he was “confident that these anecdotes will be shown to be untrue.” Pishevar was also dogged by a rape allegation published in the media that was later proven to be based on a falsified police report. Pishevar stepped down from his firm, Sherpa Capital, in the aftermath of the allegations in order to, he said, fight “the smear campaign against me.”
There was political fallout from the stories, too. Pishevar had been a big fundraiser for Democrats, including for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. Some high-profile Democrats in 2017, like Cory Booker and Kamala Harris, redirected the donations that Pishevar had given to their campaigns in the wake of the scandal. For the next few years, he seemingly was out of the political fundraising game.
But now Pishevar has has been slowly reemerging onto the public scene far from Silicon Valley — now in Miami, where he moved in the aftermath of the allegations. He has launched several new business ventures based in the city.
He has also been returning to the world of politics, as the Yang fundraiser shows. After the allegations emerged in late 2017, Pishevar’s political donations almost dried up. But in December 2020, he cut checks to the Republican candidates running for the Senate in Georgia, according to federal records. Pishevar has also been spending time with Miami’s tech-friendly mayor, Francis Suarez, and helping him pitch the city to Silicon Valley transplants.
Now he has developed ties to the possible next New York mayor. Yang is seen as a frontrunner in this fall’s mayoral race due to his national profile. He is popular, too, with tech executives: The event on Tuesday is billed as a conversation between Yang and Chamath Palihapitiya, an early Facebook executive. Other tech figures in both New York and the San Francisco Bay Area have signed up to co-host the virtual event.
Tickets run from $100 to $2,000, according to a copy of the invitation.