It’s been a little over a month since Launch House, a buzzy venture-backed founder’s club backed by the likes of Andreessen Horowitz and Day One Ventures, publicly faced numerous allegations of harassment and assault.
In response to the allegations first surfaced by the news publication Vox, the startup claimed that it would undergo an independent, third-party investigation. But as some former members of Launch House have noted, the company is using the same law firm for both its defamation warnings and its independent investigation.
While it’s not a violation to have the same law firm handle two somewhat connected legal matters – one on behalf of Launch House for defamation and one to look into the allegations raised by victims – it is an optical challenge. After all, Launch House advertised that the firm was expected to conduct a neutral investigation, but it’s not really “third-party” if the same firm is going after employees, members and journalists speaking about the allegations.
Indeed, the appearance of conflict of interest – or the idea that the law firm, Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, LLP – could provide a more favorable outcome to Launch House due to its other work with the startup, was enough to rock the boat. After a TechCrunch inquiry about Launch House’s heavy reliance on the outfit, co-founder and CEO Brett Goldstein said that the startup has asked the law firm to end its investigation into the company and is turning to another law firm for its fresh perspective.
Goldstein said in a statement sent via spokesperson to TechCrunch: “Launch House has asked Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, LLP to end its investigation and will be engaging a new law firm, one who has never worked with Launch House before, to conduct a thorough and independent investigation.”
Goldstein added that a completely separate team within Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff has been working on the investigation, and that Launch House “trusted their ability to remain impartial with those standard separation practices.”
However, he said in his statement, “we do not want there to be even the appearance of any conflict, so a new law firm will be engaged as soon as possible to conduct this crucial work . . .We must learn exactly what happened, so we can best ensure it never happens again.” TechCrunch reached out to an attorney at the law firm but did not immediately hear back.
The company’s most recent town hall, conducted at the end of September, laid out a forward-looking plan to its community. Beyond the investigation, the firm claims it is working with a diversity, equity and inclusion firm to audit and update its processes. It also said it is expanding its zero tolerance policy to cover a broader range of misconduct.
The full deck, titled “What’s next for Launch House”, is available publicly.