HP Can Investigate Hurd Legal Issues, Judge Rules

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-01-24 Print this article Print

The investigation by four new members of the HP board was sparked by a shareholder lawsuit after Hurd was forced to resign Aug. 6, 2010. Hurd wanted to see HP personnel records; a judge disagreed.

A federal district judge in San Jose, Calif., ruled Jan. 24 that a Hewlett-Packard internal investigation of the displacement of former CEO Mark Hurd in August 2010 may proceed, even though Hurd himself wanted to have it delayed.

The investigation by four new members of the HP board was sparked by a shareholder lawsuit after Hurd was forced to resign Aug. 6, 2010, following sexual-harassment allegations by former HP contractor Jodie Fisher.

U.S. District Judge James Ware threw out Hurd's objection to the investigation and said it could proceed. In the court affidavit, Hurd claimed he has a right to see personnel documents about his case; HP's board disagreed, as did Judge Ware.

Hurd said he wanted to see a copy of the shareholder demand that caused the forthcoming investigation. HP said in its response to the court that Hurd, as a "potential subject of the inquiry," isn't entitled to the documents.

Judge Ware, in agreeing with HP, scheduled a new hearing in March, requiring an "update on the investigation" beforehand, court documents said.

No evidence of harassment found

At the time Hurd left the CEO position last August, according to HP, no evidence of sexual harassment could be found. Both Hurd and Fisher have said that there was no sexual relationship between them. But HP also claimed that Hurd had violated company business policies through filing false expense reports to cover up a personal relationship between the two. Hurd and Fisher eventually settled their dispute out of court.

Immediately after Hurd left, HP's stock took a nosedive, angering a number of shareholders. Later, several key shareholders were upset to learn that Hurd may have collected a severance package that was valued at up to a whopping $53 million-money the plaintiffs described as "corporate waste" in their filings.

Hurd, while controversial at times and not particularly well-liked by HP employees, nonetheless was an effective administrator who, during his five-year tenure, kept corporate costs in line and helped in a big way as HP surpassed IBM to become the world's largest IT company.

Thirty days after leaving HP, Hurd was hired by Oracle co-founder and CEO Larry Ellison, who promptly named him co-president of the company and chastised the HP board for letting him go.

As is apparent, Hurd was a major target for litigation in 2010. Go here to see a story listing his legal entanglements.

Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on Salesforce.com and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and DevX.com and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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