Letter that led to downfall of Hewlett chief surfaces

Written by New York Times | Updated: Dec 31 2011, 07:23am hrs
The June 2010 letter that led to Mark V Hurds downfall as the head of Hewlett-Packard paints a portrait of an executive who pressed a contract employee for sex, touched her inappropriately and asked her to spend the night with him.

A Delaware court ruled Wednesday that the letter, from the lawyer Gloria Allred to Hurd, who at the time was chief executive of HP, may be made public. The letter set in motion internal investigations at the company that led to Hurds resignation on August 6, 2010.

Running eight pages, the letter accuses Hurd of sexual harassment, saying he repeatedly pressed Allreds client, Jodie Fisher, a former actress in pornographic movies and reality show contestant, for sex. It also claims that he boasted about his wealth and knowledge of business deals. Hurd, now a president of the Oracle Corporation, had fought to keep the letter private, asserting Californias privacy laws. But the court found that the letter, while mildly embarrassing, was not protected in the same way as trade secrets and certain financial information.

In October 2007, the letter says, Hurd met Fisher, who was working as a contract employee for HP, in Atlanta. On the pretext of showing her some documents for Chinas vice premier, the letter says, Hurd invited Fisher to his room at the Ritz-Carlton, where Hurd propositioned her.

Fisher was horrified, the letter says, and after an hour of refusals, she eventually left. You told her that no one had ever rejected you before and were clearly miffed. After describing several such encounters in detail, the letter says that Fishers employment with HP ended.

A source briefed on the case, however, says that an outside counsel for HP prepared a timeline of e-mails that Fisher sent around the time of the events recorded in the letter. An e-mail sent soon after the Atlanta event had the subject line great to see you and talked about how she was looking forward to seeing Hurd again.

Fisher settled with Hurd two days before his resignation from HP. In a letter following the settlement, she stated that the letter from Allred contained many inaccuracies.

The letter was recanted by Fisher, said Ken Glueck, a senior vice president at Oracle. She admitted it was full of inaccuracies. A spokeswoman for HP declined to comment.

An HP shareholder, Ernesto Espinoza, had filed a lawsuit against HP and sought a copy of the letter in court to investigate corporate wrongdoing and waste associated with the relationship and Hurds resignation.

The Delaware court did not release the letter on Thursday, but the documents were obtained by The New York Times from sources close to the case. Soon after receiving the letter from Allred, Hurd turned it over to HPs corporate counsel, Michael Holston. Holston, acting on behalf of the company, began an internal investigation of Hurds behavior.