Monday March 21, 2011 10:25 am
Former HP CEO Mark Hurd fighting to keep accuser letter sealed
If you're looking to get your hands on the juicy details that prompted the eventual resignation of ex-HP CEO Mark Hurd, keep waiting. A Delaware judge ordered late Thursday night for the key letter from Jodie Fisher to Hurd to be unsealed—which would give HP ten days to release a public version of the letter in which Fisher first accused Hurd of sexual harassment.
Although Delaware Chancery Court Judge Donald Parsons Jr. ruled that Hurd's lawyers had not shown good cause as to why the letter should remain sealed, Hurd's legal team is nevertheless appealing the decision to release the letter's contents to the public. And even if the letter is eventually released, don't expect to see the entire contents—parts of the message, sent on behalf of Fisher by her lawyer, Gloria Allred, in June of 2009—will remain sealed.
"In summary, I find that the Allred Letter and its contents have social value, the Letter would not cause an intrusion into Hurd's private affairs disproportionate to its social value, and Hurd's accession to public notoriety by the time he left HP, if he was not already in the public's eye, bears a direct relationship with the Letter's contents and the events that reportedly gave rise to his departure," writes Parsons in his decision, released Thursday.
To note, it's not the contents of the letter itself that directly resulted in HP's Board of Directors calling for Hurd's removal as CEO—his resignation was officially announced by the board in early August of 2010. While the board found Fisher's claims of sexual harassment to be unsubstantiated, the investigation did turn up inaccurate expense reports that Hurd filed during the course of his alleged contact with Fisher.
"We want to make clear that there was no affair and no intimate sexual relationship between our client and Mr. Hurd," said Allred, Fisher's lawyer, at the time.
Although Hurd offered to pay HP back for the difference between his actual expenses and the expense reports he filed—reported to be anywhere between $1,000 to $20,000—HP's board instead insisted that the CEO step down from his position.
"Sadly, Mark's conduct undermined the standards we expect of our employees, not to mention the standards to which the CEO must be held, and the board decision was unanimous," said Marc Andreessen, HP director, in a 2010 conference call.
Hurd received an estimated $40 to $50 million severance package as a result of his departure.
As for the letter, the debate around its release is a direct result of a lawsuit filed by HP shareholder Ernesto Espinoza. He's seeking records surrounding Hurd's resignation and severance, and even HP itself has claimed that the letter in question shouldn't remain confidential.
This article, written by David Murphy, originally appeared on PCMag.com and is republished on Gear Live with the permission of Ziff Davis, Inc.