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How a hedge fund bust 'may' relate to Kleiner Perkins suit

July 5, 2012: 2:38 PM ET

Okay. Let's talk about Buddy Fletcher.

FORTUNE -- "Do you know who her husband is?"

I've been asked that question a lot over the past seven weeks, while covering Ellen Pao's gender discrimination lawsuit against venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. It almost always came from those sympathetic to Kleiner Perkins, as a sleazy insinuation that Pao's marriage certificate invalidated her accusations.

My answer was usually the following: Yes, Pao's husband is Alphonse "Buddy" Fletcher Jr., a hedge fund manager who twice has been on the giving end of racial discrimination lawsuits. The first was against his former Wall Street employer, and he was awarded $1.26 million in damages although the specific racial discrimination charges were later denied by an arbiter. The second was against his Manhattan co-op board, which remains pending. And neither case has any direct relevance to Pao's claims against Kleiner Perkins, except perhaps that her spouse was able to lend more than just a sympathetic ear.

Wives don't blindly mimic their husband's actions. If they did, mine would spend her days tweeting about finance and Boston sports (two subjects, and a communications medium, which bore her to tears).

So I didn't write about Buddy Fletcher either in this space or in Term Sheet emails. Until now.

What changed was that Fletcher's master hedge fund filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy last Friday, and three days ago filed suit against several of its underlying funds based in the Cayman Islands. Both moves were designed to get around a Cayman court ruling that one of the underlying funds was insolvent and to be liquidated by Ernst & Young. Fletcher International, of course, thinks the court wrongly valued its assets and wants to handle the liquidation itself.

To be sure, none of this has to do with why Ellen Pao's experiences at Kleiner Perkins. But it does seems that her husband could be facing severe financial difficulties -- something previously alleged by that co-op board, in response to Fletcher's lawsuit -- a development that could have been a motive for her own suit. After all, financial health is something that spouses inherently share (unlike a proclivity for drafting discrimination complaints).

In other words, Pao may have had outside motive for her suit. And I cannot overemphasize the unassertive "may" enough.

Here's the thing: Either Pao or Kleiner Perkins is lying about some stuff. Her original complaint includes references to meetings and other events that Kleiner Perkins insists did not occur. That's not a matter of interpretation. That's a matter of fact, and means that one of the two sides has a motivation outside of rectifying a legitimate grievance.

If Kleiner Perkins did what Pao claims, then its motivation for lying would be fairly obvious: Protect its reputation and its assets.

If Pao is the one making up stories, now we have a possible explanation as for why: She needs a big, and quick, payday to help salvage her family's deteriorating financial situation.

To be sure, it's entirely possible that Buddy Fletcher is in deep financial trouble and that Ellen Pao was legitimately discriminated against by Kleiner Perkins. But not offering up an alternative scenario today, given the actions of Fletcher's hedge funds, would be irresponsible.

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About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

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