Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd made brazen sexual overtures to actress, Gloria Allred's letter claimsPosted: 12/29/2011 04:02:33 PM PSTUpdated: 12/29/2011 04:05:28 PM PST
Former Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Mark Hurd made repeated, unwanted sexual overtures -- including a brief kiss, touching and requests to spend the night -- to the woman whose harassment allegation led to Hurd's ouster from HP, according to the letter that celebrity attorney Gloria Allred prepared on the woman's behalf.
Hurd also acknowledged having other mistresses and bragged of his popularity with women, including the singer Sheryl Crow, during a series of overtures that left part-time marketing contractor Jodie Fisher feeling "violated, used and disregarded," according to the letter Allred sent to Hurd in June 2010. Details of the letter, which was obtained by this newspaper, have not been previously reported.
But Fisher, whose previous career included acting in racy films and appearing in a short-lived reality TV show, also issued a statement in August 2010 that said her attorney's letter contained unspecified inaccuracies. And Fisher followed up her meetings with Hurd, during which the alleged overtures took place, by sending a series of enthusiastic emails to Hurd that didn't mention any improprieties or concerns, according to an internal HP investigation.
Hurd's sudden resignation from HP in August 2010 was a Silicon Valleybombshell from which the shockwaves are still rippling. The 54-year-old Hurd, who is married and now a president at tech rival Oracle (ORCL), had been widely praised for building HP into a tech industry powerhouse. The Palo Alto company has been on a roller-coaster of successive upheavals since he left.Advertisement
Fisher dropped her claim of sexual harassment after Hurd paid her an undisclosed sum. Both parties denied ever having sex. HP said in 2010 that its own investigation found no basis for the harassment claim, although the company also said the probe found Hurd showed poor judgment and was responsible for expense account inaccuracies involving dinners with Fisher.
Since then, Allred's letter has been the subject of widespread speculation, and litigation, as attorneys for Hurd and for investors suing HP have battled over whether it should be made public.
The letter also contains a potentially explosive allegation, which this newspaper has previously reported, that Hurd told Fisher in advance about then-secret negotiations for HP to buy the tech services company EDS in a $13.9 billion deal. The allegation reportedly prompted a review by federal regulators, although no evidence surfaced publicly to indicate anyone used or profited from the advance information.
Evaluating the allegations leveled by Allred is difficult, because the attorney and her client have never said which points in her original letter were untrue. It's also unclear if the emails sent by Fisher are a direct contradiction of her claims, or if she simply was following through on what Allred has described as an attempt to hold onto her job while struggling to keep the relationship with her boss on an appropriate basis.
Both Allred and attorneys for Hurd have argued to keep the eight-page letter confidential. After Allred sent the letter to Hurd, he promptly turned it over to HP's top attorney. HP later surrendered it to a lawyer for an HP shareholder, and a Delaware court ruled Thursday that the letter should be made public, with a few sentences blacked out to protect the privacy of Hurd's family.
The letter contains numerous salacious details, in keeping with Allred's stated intention of impressing on Hurd that he should resolve the claim rather than let it proceed to a formal lawsuit. Allred has handled similar claims against a variety of well-known figures, including the golfer Tiger Woods.
"You had seen Ms. Fisher on the NBC television show 'Age of Love' that she appeared on in May/June 2007 and were quite taken with her," the attorney wrote to Hurd on June 24, 2010, adding that this was apparently the reason Hurd's executive assistant contacted Fisher's agent to recruit her for a job appearing with Hurd at high-end conferences with big HP customers.
Based on ensuing events, Allred added, "it is clear you had designs to make her your lover from the onset, using your status and authority as CEO of HP."
The letter claims Hurd first asked Fisher to spend the night in his hotel room after they appeared together at an HP sales conference in Atlanta in 2007. According to her attorney, Fisher had already become uncomfortable when the two had dinner together -- as arranged by Hurd's assistant -- and Hurd said he wanted to show Fisher some documents in his hotel room.
Fisher had misgivings but went to the room, where Hurd sat next to her and twice touched her breast with his hand, according to Allred's letter. When Fisher said something about the touching, the letter claims Hurd apologized and laughed it off.
When Hurd subsequently asked her to spend the night, the letter says, Fisher was "horrified" but "tried to be low key" in her refusal, because she didn't want to lose her job.
A few weeks later, Fisher sent Hurd one of several emails that did not mention any improprieties. "Great to see you," she wrote in the subject line, according to documents obtained by this newspaper, which indicate that Fisher also wrote that she was "looking forward" to the next event in St. Louis.
Allred's letter, however, describes a similar "uncomfortable dance" over the next several months, as Hurd allegedly shared a variety of personal information and made further overtures to Fisher. The letter says Fisher had dinner on additional occasions with Hurd, at the invitation of Hurd's assistant. Allred characterizes Fisher's stance as attempting to stay on good terms with Hurd without crossing a line into illicit behavior.
Hurd declined comment on the letter, through a spokesman, on Thursday. His attorney, Amy Wintersheimer, released a brief statement on the Delaware court's decision to make the letter public.
"We requested the court keep the letter confidential because, as Ms. Fisher has acknowledged, it is filled with inaccuracies. The truth is, there never was any sexual harassment, which HP's investigation confirmed, and there never was any sexual relationship, which Ms. Fisher has confirmed," Wintersheimer said.
An HP spokesman also declined comment on the court decision, as did Allred. Oracle senior vice president Ken Glueck said in a brief statement: "This letter was recanted by Ms. Fisher. She admitted it was full of inaccuracies."
As previously reported, Fisher wrote Hurd a letter on Aug. 5, 2010, after receiving an undisclosed payment to settle her claim. Without offering specifics, that letter said: "there are many inaccuracies in the details of the June 24, 2010 letter. I do not believe that any of your behavior was detrimental to HP or in any way injured the company or its reputation."
A spokeswoman for shareholder attorney Greg Del Gaizo, who sought to make the June 2010 letter public as part of his lawsuit against HP, said in a statement: "We are pleased with the Supreme Court's decision and will continue to fight for transparency and accountability at public companies on behalf of shareholders."
The letter prompted a falling out between Hurd and HP's board, which forced his ouster on Aug. 6, 2010. HP's stock plunged nearly 10 percent, and didn't recover until months after the company named German software executive Leo Apotheker as Hurd's replacement.
But Apotheker's tenure was itself brief and tumultuous. HP's stock sank even further after he repeatedly lowered earnings forecasts, then negotiated a high-priced software acquisition and unexpectedly announced the company was exploring whether to spin off its flagship personal computer business.
HP's board, which included several members who joined after Hurd left, ultimately fired Apotheker and named valley veteran Meg Whitman as CEO in September.
Hurd's ouster, however, also escalated a growing feud between HP and Oracle, a rival tech giant whose founder, Larry Ellison, publicly lambasted HP for pushing Hurd out and quickly hired Hurd as a co-president at Oracle.
HP is also still battling a series of shareholder lawsuits filed over the company's handling of Hurd's departure, including the board's decision to let Hurd leave with a multimillion-dollar severance package in spite of his alleged behavior.
While many analysts have praised Whitman's initial efforts to get HP back on track, the company's stock closed Monday at $25.62 -- a far cry from the levels above $46 where it was trading before Hurd's departure.
Thursday, 29 December 2011
Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd made brazen sexual overtures to actress, Gloria Allred's letter claims - San Jose Mercury News