Business news is slow coming off the long Labor Day weekend, with just one headline clearly dominant: former HP CEO Mark Hurd has resurfaced. He was forced to step down from his post due to a sexual harassment suit with a contractor in conjunction with filing mislabeled expenses. He had quite a soft landing. Just one month later, we now learn he will be hired as the president of Oracle, the second largest business software company. This should raise the obvious question: do business ethics really matter?
When the Hurd resignation news struck in August, Atlantic Correspondent Ben W. Heineman Jr. wondered: "How could he do something so stupid?" Indeed, his missteps were incredibly dumb decisions. Yet, they didn't relate to his business savvy. Even though they were stupid, they didn't change firms' perception of his potential value to their bottom line through his leadership.
Bloomberg explains the value that Oracle likely sees:
At HP, Hurd more than tripled profit by cutting costs and expanding beyond the company's core business of computers and printers. He oversaw an acquisition spree of more than $20 billion, letting the company branch out into services, networking equipment and smartphones. Oracle, which also has bulked up through takeovers, would draw on Hurd's background blending software and hardware as it expands into server sales.
While the accusations against Hurd sounded pretty bad, they boiled down to ethics. Ultimately, HP's sexual harassment probe found that he didn't violate the company's policy, but did violate its ethical standards. Oracle has responded to Hurd's poor judgment in areas other than management with a resounding -- so what? The company thinks Hurd's talent for business decision-making trumps his poor decision-making elsewhere.