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Oportun Financial says racism not a factor in CEO firing

Oportun Financial Corp. said in a court filing that its founder James Gutierrez was fired as CEO because of his ineffectiveness in his duties, and not due to his race, American Banker reported.

Gutierrez on March 11 filed a suit in San Francisco County Superior Court, alleging that the company and its venture capitalist backers discriminated against him because he was Latino, in addition to being subjected to verbal abuse and a hostile working environment. He is seeking at least $225,000 from Oportun Financial to pay for attorneys fees incurred during a previous lawsuit, which alleged a breach of fiduciary duties of the company's board and was settled for $8.5 million, according to American Banker.

Oportun Financial said the racism allegations are baseless because Raul Vazquez, who is also Latino, was named to replaced Gutierrez. It also noted Gutierrez failed to raise sufficient equity from external sources, and that hiring a new CEO in 2012 improved the company's performance, according to the publication.

Oportun Financial also claimed in its filing that Gutierrez failed to reimburse the company for personal expenses and even had company employees involved in planning his wedding. Gutierrez said allegations on failing to reimburse the company are baseless, according to the report.