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Maverix founders John Ruffolo, above, Mark Maybank and Michael Wasserman face a lawsuit alleging they caused the plaintiff mental distress.

Melissa Tait/The Globe and Mail

Maverix, the private equity fund launched by Bay Street investor John Ruffolo earlier this year, alleges a former partner who is suing the firm for $3.4-million is seeking compensation for work she agreed to do for no pay.

A statement of defence filed by Maverix’s lawyers on Friday in Ontario Superior Court alleges that Chitra Anand, a former executive with Microsoft Canada, agreed to help Mr. Ruffolo prepare for a new venture as a learning opportunity, to gain experience and to make new contacts.

According to the document, which has not been proven in court, Ms. Anand signed a confidentiality agreement that stated: “no remuneration (unless otherwise agreed in writing) is required to be paid.” It was understood that Maverix would consider Ms. Anand for a paid role if and when the fund launched, the statement continues, but by then, the firm had concerns about her performance. Maverix alleges she didn’t understand the business, took credit for others’ work and was disrespectful to others.

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The last straw, the statement alleges, came after Mr. Ruffolo learned Ms. Anand had surreptitiously recorded a conversation with a Maverix employee.

“In the end, acting in the best interest of the prospective business, the defendants had no alternative but to confirm that the plaintiff could not and would not become engaged by Maverix,” the statement of defence reads.

Maverix also stated it offered Ms. Anand a $50,000 settlement, which she declined.

Ms. Anand’s lawsuit, filed in late June, asks for $700,000 in compensation and $2.7-million in additional damages, including mental distress, negligent misrepresentation, deceit and punitive damages.

In her statement of claim, which has also not been tested in court, Ms. Anand contends she spent a year and a half developing Maverix’s brand and culture, doing communications work and helping secure its first set of investors. She alleges the understanding was that she would be paid retroactively if Mr. Ruffolo’s startup launched successfully.

But just as this was about to happen, Ms. Anand claimed that Mr. Ruffolo and managing partner Michael Wasserman raised concerns about her performance out of nowhere. They told her she would no longer be needed and, when she asked about money, said she would not be paid for any of the work she had done.

“It is unfortunate you have taken a view that you were somehow working for Maverix when you volunteered to join us in meetings and you did a few things under your understanding you might be working for us,” Mr. Ruffolo wrote in an e-mail, the claim alleges.

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In her lawsuit, Ms. Anand highlighted the work she says she performed between September, 2019, and April‚ 2021, when she was let go, including attending mandatory weekly “founding member” meetings, directing branding, developing a website and handling media requests. (At the time Ms. Anand filed her lawsuit, a media kit on Maverix’s website still identified her as “partner, marketing, brand and thought leadership.”)

Ms. Anand suggested Maverix may have used her – a racialized woman – to bolster the firm’s image with investors.

“All three managing partners, Mr. Ruffolo, [Mark] Maybank and Mr. Wasserman, are white males. They were concerned with the imbalanced ratio of men and women on the team, as well as the racial diversity,” her lawsuit alleges.

In Maverix’s statement of defence, the firm called this narrative “scandalous” and “vexatious.” It accused Ms. Anand of trying to diminish the contributions of other racialized women on Maverix’s team.

In an e-mail, Ms. Anand’s lawyer, Natalie C. MacDonald, wrote: “We not only continue to stand firmly behind the statement of claim, but will also be delivering a reply to directly refute the allegations in the statement of defence, and look forward to moving into examinations for discovery, where the evidence will speak for itself.”

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