Hyperloop One has been making great progress developing Elon Musk's high-speed transport concept. Indeed, it has already built a full-scale test track and has several contracts to develop routes in place. But that progress is under threat as a number of former employees, including co-founder and Chief Technical Officer Brogan Bambrogan, have filed a lawsuit against several of the company's executives.
Hyperloop One Chairman Shervin Pishevar, CEO Robert Lloyd, board member Joe Lonsdale, and General Counsel Afshin Pishevar are accused of several incidents of nepotism, cronyism and even making a death threat.
Noted in the lawsuit is that Shervin Pishevar forced the company to nearly triple the salary of a PR representative engaged by the company after she became his girlfriend. Despite being paid way above market rates - at a time when many within the company were paid below market rates - there was no increase in the workload put on Pishevar's girlfriend. When the relationship ended, her contract with the company was terminated immediately.
Concerns about the appointment of Afshin Pishevar, Shervin's brother, were also raised. Before joining Hyperloop One he worked as a personal injury lawyer and had no experience as a corporate attorney.
Other examples of mismanagement, including forcing engineers to give tours to Pishevar's friends and celebrities, are cited in the lawsuit. In May this year, a letter signed by Bambrogan and 10 other senior employees was sent to the board, expressing their concerns. It concluded: "We have lost faith in Hyperloop One's governance structure. These views are held widely across the company."
In the days after the letter was sent, five of the signatories were "forced out", while Bambrogan resigned after reportedly receiving a death threat in the form of a noose left on his chair. Afshin Pishevar was apparently caught on a security camera carrying out the act.
It's all rather troubling, and could jeopardise the development of a technology with the potential to revolutionize transport.