Why Did Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd Get Canned?

Sexual deviance, dishonest accounting or something else?

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A number of questions remain following the surprising resignation of Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd. On Friday, the board of H-P asked Hurd to resign following a sexual harassment complaint filed against Hurd by a former female contractor. Hurd didn't violate the company's sexual harassment policy, said the board. However, an internal investigation revealed that his office submitted fudged expense reports that "concealed" the "close personal relationship" Hurd had with the contractor. The board also called into question how the woman was compensated for her work. "Based on these facts, the board concluded his conduct demonstrated a profound lack of judgment," H-P General Counsel Mike Holston said.

Then on Sunday the contractor who filed the complaint revealed her identity as Jodie Fisher, a woman who has starred in various softcore flicks including Intimate Obsession, Sheer Passion and Body of Influence 2. In an unusual statement, Fisher said "I was surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this. That was never my intention." She also said she never had sex with Hurd.

So—given Fisher's warm words towards Hurd and his sterling record as a "highly competent" chief executive, why was he sacked? The business community racks its brains to figure it out:

  • I Don't Get It, writes Jack Loftus at Gizmodo: "Pardon my bluntness, but what the heck is going on?! Where's the point in their relationship when the sexual harassment happened? I'm not passing judgment here at all—this is just all very peculiar!"

  • Hurd's Reputation Was Stellar, writes James Temple at the San Francisco Chronicle:  "Hurd is credited with stabilizing HP after he replaced Carly Fiorina, who was dismissed by the board after a tumultuous tenure remembered best for the bitter proxy battle over the Compaq merger. He's considered a highly competent operations guy, who helped to transform the company into a one-stop tech shop with a strong business services division. He was also laser focused on efficiency, dismissing more than 15,000 workers out of the gate."
  • We Deserve More Information, writes Henry Blodget at Business Insider: "HP shareholders need to know. If Hurd defrauded HP by submitting bogus expense reports to cover up a relationship or, worse, embezzled money by having the company fly his love-interest around on the company dime, Hurd should be fired for cause and not get a dime of severance. If, on the other hand, Hurd has a good explanation for whatever happened, and the incorrect names on the expense reports were oversights by Hurd or his secretary, then he shouldn't have been sacked. And given that his sacking has already cost HP's shareholders $10 billion, the Board owes shareholders an explanation of EXACTLY what happened here--including, if it's important in understanding the Board's logic--what happened with the mystery woman."
  • Look at the Facts: It Makes Perfect Sense, writes Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat: "It is interesting that Fisher was able to land a job as an HP marketing contractor, given her background in softcore R-rated sex films, which were filmed when she was in her 30s. But it’s also starting to become more clear why HP’s board didn’t want word of this episode to leak out. The board likely feared that HP and Hurd would suffer a lot of embarrassment if the whole industry found out he was accused of sexual harassment by a former softcore porn actress. That might also be why Hurd decided he might not be an effective leader anymore. Of course, we can’t assume that this woman is a one-dimensional 'former softcore porn actress' and that she wasn’t a good marketing consultant. But it’s clear that during scandals, such nuances are lost."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.