Uber Investor Benchmark Sues Former CEO Travis Kalanick

The suit alleges Kalanick committed fraud, and could get him kicked off the Uber board.

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Benchmark, the Silicon Valley investment firm and major Uber shareholder, is suing recently-ousted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. 

In a Delaware Chancery Court filing spotted by Axios, Benchmark accuses Kalanick of fraud, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty. The suit appears to be aimed at preventing Kalanick from making a Steve Jobs-like return to Uber, something news reports have suggested he is considering. The lawsuit could get Kalanick kicked off Uber's board, making a return to the CEO position virtually impossible.

Benchmark holds an Uber board seat, and so does Kalanick, despite his resignation from the CEO job. The lawsuit accuses Kalanick of being "selfish" and packing the Uber board with "loyal allies," arguing that Kalanick is trying to lay the groundwork for his own return as CEO. While some employees circulated a petition to reinstate Kalanick, Uber co-founder and chairman Garrett Camp has said Kalanick will not return.

Benchmark may not like Kalanick, but it does like Uber. It expects the ride-sharing company to be worth $100 billion in a few years.

The investment firm's complaint appears to center around a June 2016 decision that expanded Uber's board from eight members to 11. Kalanick was given the right to choose the new seats. He gave one to himself after resigning as CEO, while the other two remain unfilled.

Since last year, Uber has faced a number of scandals, including accusations of sexual harassment by a female former employee that led to an investigation of Uber's corporate culture, which in turn exposed other instances of misconduct. Benchmark claimed it would not have given Kalanick the power to fill new board seats if its representatives knew about these issues.

Since Kalanick's ouster, Uber has tried to reform its corporate culture and improve its relationship with drivers. The company is introducing more driver-support services, and is attempting to close its gender pay gap. But Uber is also fighting another lawsuit from Waymo, alleging that the ride-sharing company used stolen self-driving car tech. Legal infighting among board members isn't exactly what the company needs right now.