HP's Old CEO May Have Leaked Company Secrets
Oh dear, just when we thought all this Mark Hurd drama had blown over …
You might remember the scandal that was Mark Hurd's departure from HP and subsequent arrival at Oracle. Hurd resigned from his post at HP amid a sexual harassment scandal back in August. Though he was cleared of any violation of the HP's sexual harassment code, Hurd did not return to his old job and instead decided to take up a position as co-President of HP-rival Oracle. To say HP wasn't pleased is an understatement.
Soon after Oracle announced that Hurd would be joining the company, HP filed a lawsuit against him, claiming that he was privy to important company secrets and that joining Oracle could be detrimental to HP's business. HP and Hurd eventually settled their differences outside of court but, although they're no longer embroiled in bitter legal proceedings, it seems HP may have had a reason for concern when it filed the suit against its former CEO.
During an investigation into the ousting of Mark Hurd, the Wall Street Journal has found that a letter sent by supposed sexual harassment victim Jodie Fisher earlier this year accuses Hurd of sharing company secrets with the former HP contractor. Hurd is said to have told Fisher about HP's plans to acquire EDS in March of 2008. However, HP didn't publicly spill the beans on the $13.9 billion deal until May of 2008.
The letter, sent to HP by Fisher's lawyer back in June, accuses Hurd of sexual harassment and it was these claims that HP seemed to focus on throughout the month of July. According to the Wall Street Journal report, the company hired its own team of lawyers to look into Hurd and his relationship with Jodie Fisher and ultimately found that the CEO had played down his relationship with the contractor when questioned about the letter. Though Hurd initially said he didn't know her that well and was unaware of her past career as a porn actress, evidence showed he searched for 'Jodie Fisher video' and visited erotic4u.com more than once to see pictures of Fisher.
It seems the HP board then decided that Hurd could not be trusted and talks turned to whether or not the company should publicly disclose the sexual harassment allegations and if they needed to start looking for a new CEO. Hurd did not want the sexual harassment claims disclosed and argued for the right to resign after helping to find a replacement leader. He eventually lost that battle when Hurd's own lawyers settled the case with Ms. Fisher. One day later, on August 6, Hurd's resignation from HP was announced. According to the Journal, the board never had the chance to find out if he ever did talk to Fisher about the EDS deal, and if so, what he said.
At this stage, many would consider Hurd's departure from HP old news. However, though the letter in question was sent months ago, it is the reason Hurd was forced to resign and it does cast him in a rather unfavorable light when it comes to the handling of company secrets. It seems HP may have been right to worry about Hurd's loyalty to his old employer when he took up a position at Oracle, but ultimately we may never know the truth.