David Haase, a former employee of the beleaguered San Francisco-based firm Rothenberg Ventures Management Co. (RVM), is suing the firm and its founder, Mike Rothenberg, saying he was asked to run up more than $100,000 in business expenses on an American Express account at the direction of Rothenberg and never repaid.
In his lawsuit, filed last week in San Francisco, Haase says he joined Rothenberg Ventures in April of this year and tasked with “providing various services of a Chief Financial Office for RVM” while also doing work on behalf of the company’s affiliated businesses, including its four-year-old venture arm,Rothenberg Ventures, and its small but growing virtual reality production house,River Studios, founded in May 2015.
Haase says in his suit that in May, he opened the account with Rothenberg’s approval “for the purpose of acting as a credit line for the day-to-day expenses incurred by RVM.” These included business expenses charged by Rothenberg’s “numerous administrative assistants at his direct request.” Part of those expenses included payroll, according to our sources.
As of the suit’s filing, Haase’s account was overdue in the amount of $109,352.20 and, according to his suit, Rothenberg has “wrongfully and capriciously refused to pay” that debt, leaving Haase to deal with the charge, as well as the accruing interest on the amount. The suit says that Rothenberg “disavowed any responsibility on the part of RVM” despite having previously paid expenses charged to the card to the tune of $140,000.
Haase’s charges don’t end there. In a claim that may be of even greater interest to those following the case, Haase also says that Rothenberg co-mingled the accounts of Rothenberg Ventures and River Studios.
Whether this could prove problematic for Rothenberg isn’t yet clear; even LPs seem confused about how much of River Studios they own and how distinctly it was managed from Rothenberg Ventures. But Haase’s suit goes so far as to allege Rothenberg of treating “such accounts as personal accounts, to such an extent that such business entities were in fact his alter ego.”