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Bimbo: Former HP CEO Mark Hurd Leaked Inside Info in PiIlow Talk

A person familiar with the ouster of Hewlett-Packard Co.’s former CEO Mark Hurd tells The Associated Press that the woman who accused Hurd of sexual harassment also claimed that he told her about a major acquisition HP was about to make.

The person requested anonymity because of not being authorized to discuss the allegations.

The person said the deal in question was HP’s $13.9 billion acquisition of Electronic Data Systems in 2008.

Hurd’s accuser, an HP contractor named Jodie Fisher [pictured with her attorney Gloria Allred], later appeared to recant her claim of disclosing information in a letter she sent Hurd when she and Hurd settled the matter for an undisclosed amount.

The AP has reviewed that letter, in which Fisher said there were “many inaccuracies” in her original claim against Hurd. She said she didn’t believe that Hurd’s behavior harmed HP.

Fisher’s lawyer, Gloria Allred, declined to comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Fisher’s allegations earlier Friday.

It’s generally illegal for an executive to disclose material and nonpublic information with an outside party without an agreement of confidentiality. Exceptions are made for relationships in which there might not be a formal arrangement but there is an expectation of confidentiality.

HP has never publicly mentioned the allegation of disclosing the information against Hurd.

The company, which is the world’s biggest maker of personal computers and printers, said its board forced Hurd out over inaccurate expense reports connected to Hurd’s dinners with Fisher.

Hurd maintains that he never prepared his own expense reports and didn’t intentionally try to keep Fisher’s name off any reports. HP’s board said it didn’t find evidence of sexual harassment.

Fisher’s allegations led to Hurd’s resignation Aug. 6. HP’s board found no evidence of sexual harassment but wanted to disclose the allegations, which Hurd argued was unnecessary.

Hurd and Fisher both say they didn’t have a sexual relationship.

Hurd’s resignation stunned investors, who were largely pleased with Hurd’s five-year stewardship of HP. He is now a co-president at business software maker Oracle Corp., which is run by his friend Larry Ellison.

from – “Dear Mr. Hurd,” began the note that Mark Hurd read on June 29 in his office at Hewlett-Packard Co. “Please be advised that we represent Ms. Jodie Fisher regarding her claims… against Hewlett-Packard (‘HP’) and you, Mr. Mark Hurd, as an individual.”

Thus began one of the oddest episodes in the annals of Silicon Valley, in which a vaunted leader fell from grace under murky circumstances that have left questions to this day about just why his board turned on him.

After H-P announced that Mr. Hurd had resigned as chief executive, it cited expense-account irregularities that came to light when it looked into the letter, which claimed Mr. Hurd had sexually harassed Ms. Fisher, a former H-P contractor. H-P said it had concluded Mr. Hurd didn’t, in fact, violate its sexual-harassment policy, but did violate its standards of business conduct.

But there were other matters weighing on H-P’s board. An investigation by The Wall Street Journal into Mr. Hurd’s sudden ouster reveals that the letter contained an explosive allegation: that in early 2008, Mr. Hurd told Ms. Fisher of a still-secret H-P plan to buy Electronic Data Systems Corp.

Though directors had little reason to doubt Mr. Hurd’s assurance this allegation was false, some fretted about it. That is because of what the Journal found was the ultimate reason directors ousted Mr. Hurd: They had lost confidence he was being honest with them about his relationship with Ms. Fisher.

In one previously undisclosed example: The CEO had told directors he didn’t know Ms. Fisher acted in adult movies, say people briefed on the matter, but investigators hired by H-P learned he had visited Web pages showing her in pornographic scenes, including a site called “”

Another: Mr. Hurd told the board he didn’t know Ms. Fisher well; later, in talking to investigators hired by H-P, he said they had a “very close personal relationship.”

Mr. Hurd, through a spokesman, said he didn’t discuss Ms. Fisher’s porn past or the details of their relationship with the board members.

The letter that set off the furor was sent on Ms. Fisher’s behalf by celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred. It included an eight-page chronology of meetings in hotels around the world. At some, say people who have seen the letter, it alleged that Mr. Hurd sexually harassed Ms. Fisher, in certain cases touching her body in sexually suggestive ways.

The letter also said Mr. Hurd and Ms. Fisher discussed intimate details of the CEO’s life, including his personal life at home. And it alleged that Mr. Hurd told Ms. Fisher of H-P’s plan to buy EDS at a Madrid meeting that began near the end of March 2008. H-P had just made a confidential offer to buy EDS; it wasn’t until May that H-P unveiled the $13.9 billion deal.

Although H-P never publicly disclosed that claim, it has provided information to regulators about the facts underlying Mr. Hurd’s departure, including the EDS allegation, said a person familiar with the matter. This person said H-P is barred by its agreement with Mr. Hurd from publicly disclosing the contents of the letter from Ms. Allred.

The board at first stood behind Mr. Hurd, accepting his assertion that Ms. Fisher’s claims were baseless. When doubts developed, the board was split. Two directors argued almost to the end against ousting Mr. Hurd, say people familiar with the board. This account is based on interviews with people close to the board and with people close to Mr. Hurd, as well as on a review of documents.

Ms. Fisher entered Mr. Hurd’s life in 2007. The CEO’s unofficial chief of staff, Caprice McIlvaine, helped devise a marketing plan in which customers’ executives were invited to spend time with Mr. Hurd at hotel receptions. Ms. McIlvaine hired contractors to staff the events.

One was Ms. Fisher, an actress Ms. McIlvaine told investigators she had spotted on a reality-TV show called “Age of Love.” Ms. Fisher’s job was to rank H-P customers at the hotel events by importance and introduce the executives to Mr. Hurd. The program eventually faded, and Ms. Fisher’s last gig was in late 2009.

After Mr. Hurd got the letter from her lawyer, he and Ms. McIlvaine emailed it to H-P General Counsel Michael Holston, who forwarded it to directors. Several, said someone familiar with the board, then searched “Jodie Fisher” and learned of her adult-movie past.

On a conference call over the July 4 weekend, say people familiar with the call, directors who’d spoken to Mr. Hurd said he told them that he had dined with Ms. Fisher a few times but didn’t know her well, and that all of her claims were false, including that he sexually harassed her and told her about the pending EDS deal. He also told board members that he never had sex with Ms. Fisher, said people familiar with the conversations.

Directors were inclined to believe him. “Mark had unanimous support going into this,” one person familiar with the board says. “The board was keenly interested in keeping him as CEO.”

Still, directors were concerned that Ms. Fisher’s lawyer was Ms. Allred, who had built her practice representing women claiming to have been wronged by powerful men. The letter closed with an offer to settle, say people who’ve seen it. Ms. Allred and Ms. Fisher declined to comment.

In early July, Mr. Hurd told board members that H-P should pay for a settlement, say people familiar with the situation. One board member suggested he settle privately. A spokesman for Mr. Hurd says others did too.

Some directors were haunted by H-P’s 2006 “pretexting” scandal, in which investigators had snooped on phone records of reporters and others. One director resigned in anger over the spying, which the board didn’t disclose. It faced a publicity debacle when details leaked, and the Securities and Exchange Commission chided its lack of disclosure. Ms. Fisher’s claims, some now worried, might elicit similar criticism if they became known and hadn’t been disclosed.

Directors also worried about potential legal problems concerning her allegation of a leak about EDS, say people familiar with the board. The charge thrust the board into a legal gray area. An executive who leaks sensitive information may be breaching a fiduciary duty to keep it confidential, says Eric Talley, a professor at the University of California’s Boalt Hall law school. But if a board has reason to believe no one traded on the information, the board may not be required to report the leak even to regulators.

The board hired Washington law firm Covington & Burling for an internal investigation of the allegations. On the evening of July 28, directors gathered without Mr. Hurd at H-P headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif. They filled plates from a buffet and sat around a long table as they prepared to study the results of the law firm’s probe.

A Covington lawyer, Tom Williamson, described the result of a review of Mr. Hurd’s phone calls, travel, expenses and PC usage, and interviews with Mr. Hurd, Ms. McIlvaine and other H-P employees. The picture that emerged was often at odds with Mr. Hurd’s initial claims, according to documents reviewed by the Journal and to people familiar with the probe and the board.

Mr. Hurd and Ms. McIlvaine told Covington they first spoke to Ms. Fisher about a job at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, Calif. Mr. Hurd interviewed her a second time in Denver, where the two had a three-hour dinner, and stayed at the same hotel. After her hiring, Ms. Fisher met Mr. Hurd in Atlanta, St. Louis, San Diego, Madrid, Los Angeles, Laguna Beach, Calif., Chicago, Beverly Hills and Tokyo, among other cities, the probe found.

Mr. Hurd held executive events in many of those cities, it found, but at least twice the two met at places where no events were held. For instance, on Feb. 11, 2008, H-P sent Ms. Fisher to the Rancho Bernardo Inn near San Diego, where she dined with Mr. Hurd and spent a night. There was no H-P event at the hotel, the probe found.

Their last meeting was in Idaho. On Sept. 23, 2009, Ms. McIlvaine arranged by email for Ms. Fisher to travel to the Grove Hotel in Boise on Monday, Oct. 5. She arrived on a 6 p.m. flight. Covington said Mr. Hurd told its investigators that evening the two watched the Minnesota Vikings play the Green Bay Packers on TV, first in the hotel bar and later together in his hotel room.

The next day, Mr. Hurd hosted state officials and executives. Ms. Fisher didn’t attend. A spokesman for Mr. Hurd said he didn’t arrange for Ms. Fisher to go to the event and they slept in separate rooms.

The law firm’s review found expense-account irregularities. Mr. Hurd’s report for a $219.54 dinner at the Beverly Hills Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse on June, 26, 2008, listed his guest as his security guard, Denis Lynch. The probe unearthed emails showing Ms. McIlvaine had actually planned the Ruth’s Chris dinner for Ms. Fisher and Mr. Hurd. In an email to Ms. Fisher the next day, Ms. McIlvaine said she hoped the dinner had worked out.

The investigators told of a half-dozen dinners with notations saying Mr. Hurd had dined with Mr. Lynch, on occasions when Mr. Lynch said he wasn’t present and when Mr. Hurd actually dined with Ms. Fisher. Mr. Hurd told the investigators mistakes on his expense reports weren’t surprising because he didn’t fill them out himself; he said Ms. McIlvaine would list Mr. Lynch as a dining companion because the two often ate together when they traveled. Ms. McIlvaine has left H-P and declined to comment.

Mr. Hurd told Covington on July 20 that he liked to relax with Ms. Fisher after H-P events and had discussed with her certain deeply personal details, including his life with his wife. He said he and Ms. Fisher had developed a “very close personal relationship” and he considered her “a positive uplifting person who left me feeling good at the end of the day.’

Contradicting directors’ understanding that Mr. Hurd claimed to be unaware of Ms. Fisher’s adult-film career, computer forensics showed that on April 27, 2009, he Googled “Jodie Fisher video” and then accessed “” to view more than 30 Web pages, including ones showing scenes of Ms. Fisher in the 1997 adult film “Passion and Romance: Ocean of Dreams.” He accessed scenes from the same film 14 days later, the probe found.

Covington, which wasn’t able to interview either Ms. Allred or Ms. Fisher, found no evidence Mr. Hurd had sexually harassed Ms. Fisher. But its review left the board with evidence Mr. Hurd had underplayed his relationship with Ms. Fisher, and perhaps prevaricated about it.

The board took a quick poll on whether to disclose Ms. Fisher’s allegations. Six favored disclosing and four were against it, according to a person familiar with the meeting. Three of those against—venture capitalist Marc Andreessen, former International Business Machines Corp. executive John Joyce, and legal entrepreneur Joel Hyatt—said that without evidence backing the allegations it was unclear what there was to disclose.

Director Lucille Salhany disagreed. She and several other directors cited the circumstances of Ms. Fisher’s hiring—the CEO twice personally interviewing a person with no relevant experience for a minor position.

“The story has morphed already. He lied to my face and he’s lying to you,” Ms. Salhany told the other directors, according to people familiar with the meeting. “There’s no grounds for trusting him.”

The meeting ended at 2 a.m., July 29. By then, the board was heavily leaning toward a disclosure of the allegations, and most members agreed with Ms. Salhany that trust had been broken. They were unsure whether Mr. Hurd could continue to lead the company. Messrs. Hyatt and Joyce still hoped to avoid losing the CEO and disrupting H-P.

A few hours later, at 7:30 a.m., directors gathered for the second half of their regular board meeting.

After routine business, executives and others departed about 10:30, leaving the directors in executive session. For a moment, no one spoke. Then Mr. Hurd told the others to continue their discussion about him, and walked out. As they deliberated, Mr. Andreessen and Robert Ryan, the lead independent director, walked to Mr. Hurd’s office to tell him the board planned to disclose Ms. Fisher’s allegations and portions of the investigation, say people familiar with the proceedings.

“I am against disclosure of any kind,” Mr. Hurd responded, these people say. The investigation hadn’t confirmed sexual harassment, so there was no need to make the allegations public, he told them.

In the boardroom, the discussion focused on whether to keep Mr. Hurd as CEO. A sheet of paper was labeled with “Staying” on one part and “Departing” on another, and listed different disclosures the board might make, say people familiar with the meeting. The liaisons presented it to Mr. Hurd. “You’ve put me under siege,” he told them.

When the board broke for the day, Mr. Hurd still had the support of Messrs. Hyatt and Joyce. Directors hoped the allegations wouldn’t leak while they waited for a mediation session they had scheduled for a week later with Ms. Fisher’s lawyer, where they hoped to dig into the alleged EDS leak and other claims.

That evening, Mr. Andreessen drove to Mr. Hurd’s house to deliver an update, he later told the board. He told Mr. Hurd the board had decided to disclose some of Ms. Fisher’s claims, and the remaining debate was over how to do so and whether Mr. Hurd could stay on, said someone familiar with what he told the board.

According to this person, Mr. Andreessen, referring to the hiring of a porn actress, told the CEO: “You have created a situation ideally suited for TMZ,” the gossip website and TV program.

Mr. Hurd said he could reach a private settlement with Ms. Fisher that would lower the chance of Ms. Fisher’s allegations ever becoming public. He offered a proposal: Let him resign in three to six months, after he helped find a replacement. It would be a graceful departure that to the outside would look like a retirement, said the person familiar with what Mr. Andreessen told the board.

Mr. Hurd and his lawyer spent the weekend calling directors, pleading for a meeting with the board, where he hoped to salvage his job or at least orchestrate a gradual transition, according to a conversation he had with acquaintances. But on Tuesday, Aug. 3, H-P director Larry Babbio told the CEO the board wanted to begin the process of letting him go.

The next day, Mr. Hurd’s lawyers were in San Francisco working out the details of a settlement with Ms. Fisher’s attorneys. The sides signed a pact around 2 a.m., say people familiar with the proceedings.

It included a confidentiality agreement designed to eliminate the risk of leaks from Ms. Fisher or her lawyers. Ms. Fisher wrote a brief letter absolving H-P of responsibility and declaring that there were “many inaccuracies” in the earlier letter, without specifying what they were. The brief letter said, “I do not believe that any of your behavior was detrimental to HP or in any way injured the company or its reputation.” Mr. Hurd has said he made a financial settlement with her that was “de minimis.”

H-P’s legal team learned of the settlement at 7:30 a.m. Aug. 5, when a lawyer for the company was told the mediation was canceled because the case had been settled, said someone familiar with the matter.

Some directors felt blindsided. They had wanted to hear from Ms. Allred before a final vote on Mr. Hurd’s fate and were counting on the mediation to evaluate the claim Mr. Hurd had leaked the EDS deal. A spokesman for Mr. Hurd said his lawyer told H-P it could talk to Ms. Fisher without violating the terms of the settlement.

Most board doubts about ousting Mr. Hurd disappeared. By the morning of Aug. 6, he had agreed to resign. The holdouts, Messrs. Joyce and Hyatt, agreed to make the vote unanimous.

The announcement came minutes after the stock market closed on Friday, Aug. 6: “HP CEO Mark Hurd Resigns.”

Mr. Hurd is now co-president at Oracle Corp. The question of what, if anything, he told Ms. Fisher about the EDS deal in 2008 remains unresolved.


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