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Letter to HP board in Mark Hurd case must be unsealed, judge orders
A Delaware judge has ordered the unsealing of a letter outlining allegations by a former actress and part-time marketing contractor that led to the abrupt resignation of former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd last year.
The judge gave Hurd 10 days to contest the ruling, however, and an attorney said the former CEO, now a co-president at Oracle, will file an appeal.Hurd was accused of sexual harassment by former HP marketing contractor Jodie Fisher, in a letter that Fisher lawyer Gloria Allred submitted to the HP board last summer. HP later announced that its investigation did not substantiate the harassment claim, but that Hurd had violated company standards and received reimbursement for inaccurate expense claims.
Both Hurd and Fisher denied having a sexual relationship. Hurd eventually paid Fisher an undisclosed sum to settle her claim, and she sent a second letter saying her initial claim contained unspecified “inaccuracies.””We believe the letter, which was clearly marked ‘confidential,’ should remain that way,” said Hurd attorney Amy Wintersheimer in a statement released Friday. “As has been admitted the letter contains many inaccuracies. Mr. Hurd long ago resolved the matter and has moved on.”
But issues surrounding the case have continued to dog Hurd and Hewlett-Packard. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the circumstances that led to his departure. And attorneys have filed several shareholder lawsuits against the company, complaining that Hurd should not have been allowed to leave with a generous severance package. The letter from Allred has become an issue in one of those lawsuit
Hurd Asks Delaware Court to Keep Letter on Contractor Relationship Sealed
Former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd asked a Delaware judge to delay an order unsealing a letter that describes his relationship with contractor Jodie Fisher while he appeals the ruling.
Hurd filed the request under seal, according to a letter made public today in Delaware Chancery Court in Wilmington. Hurd said he plans to appeal the March 17 decision by Judge Donald Parsons Jr., who ordered that a redacted, public version of the letter be filed within 10 days.
The letter sent by lawyer Gloria Allred on Fisher’s behalf is part of a case filed by HP shareholder Ernesto Espinoza seeking access to company books and records. The letter contains accusations of sexual harassment and details of Hurd’s alleged advances toward Fisher and her rejection of them, according to Parsons’s ruling.
Hurd, 54, who is now co-president of software maker Oracle Corp. (ORCL), resigned from Palo Alto, California-based HP in August after a company investigation into his alleged relationship determined he violated its standards of business conduct. HP said it didn’t find that Hurd had violated the company’s sexual- harassment policy.
Hurd argued he should have a say in Espinoza’s demand for information because the letter was personal and his alone. It was sent by Allred in an attempt to arrange a private mediation, lawyers for Hurd said. The letter contains allegations that Hurd misused corporate funds to “wine and dine Fisher” and leaked potential non-public information about the company to her, Parsons said in his ruling.Internal ReportAmy Wintersheimer, an attorney for Hurd, said in an e-mail on March 18 that the letter contains many inaccuracies.
Plaintiff’s lawyer Norman Monhait didn’t immediately return message left at his Wilmington office seeking comment on the latest filings.Espinoza is seeking access to the letter and an internal report prepared for the HP board by lawyers at Covington & Burling LLP as part of his investigation into possible wrongdoing by directors. The board wrongly granted Hurd a severance package valued at as much as $40 million rather than terminate him for cause without money, lawyers for Espinoza said in court papers filed in the case.The case is Espinoza v. Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ), CA6000, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington).
AuthorMarch 23, 2011 at 8:30 AM
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