Ex-Rivian executive sues over ‘toxic bro culture’ ahead of IPO
A former Rivian Automotive Inc. executive sued the electric-truck maker ahead of its public share offering, saying she was fired last month after complaining about the company’s “toxic bro culture” and gender discrimination.
Laura Schwab, who was vice president of sales and marketing, alleged she was abruptly fired after she complained about “a textbook pattern of gender bias” and discrimination from a top executive, according to a copy of the lawsuit shared by her attorneys. They said the suit was filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court.
Schwab alleges Rivian violated the state’s labor code, tarnished her reputation and caused emotional pain, according to the lawsuit. “Rivian’s unlawful conduct also cost Ms. Schwab millions of dollars in unvested equity on the eve of the company’s IPO,” it said. Schwab’s attorneys said they also filed a statement of claims with the American Arbitration Assn. on Thursday.
Schwab joined the Irvine company in November 2020. She said she was offered a $360,000 base salary, a 40% bonus, a $4,000-a-month stipend, a $100,000 sign-on bonus and $1.5 million in equity in the form of restricted stock units. Rivian, which is backed by Amazon Inc., plans an initial public offering this month that could value the company at close to $60 billion.
With $10.5 billion raised from backers including Amazon and Ford Motor Co., an established factory in Illinois and thousands of reservation holders for its R1T truck and R1S sport utility vehicle, Rivian is among the most serious competitors lining up to take on Tesla.
A representative for Rivian declined to comment, citing a quiet period before the IPO.
Dow Jones reported on the complaint earlier.
“Rivian publicly boasts about its culture, so it was a crushing blow when I joined the company and almost immediately experienced a toxic bro culture that marginalizes women and contributes to the company making mistakes,” Schwab wrote in a blog post Thursday.
In her lawsuit, Schwab alleges Rivian’s chief commercial officer, Jiten Behl, “routinely excluded her from meetings” and made decisions about her team “without her input but with input from men on different teams, and dismissed the legitimate concerns she had regarding Rivian’s misleading public statements and flawed business practices.”
Schwab said she’d warned that vehicle sales would lead to losses because they were underpriced, that manufacturing needed to be refined before promising a safe vehicle to consumers, and that a company statement in a regulatory filing that 1,000 vehicles would be delivered in 2021 wasn’t achievable, according to her complaint.