Hurd’s decision was made following an investigation by outside legal counsel and the General Counsel’s Office, overseen by the Board, of the facts and circumstances surrounding a claim of sexual harassment against Hurd and HP by a former contractor to HP. The investigation determined there was no violation of HP’s sexual harassment policy, but did find violations of HP’s Standards of Business Conduct.
The situation is a little curious given that he appears to have crossed the sexual harassment ethics hurdle but failed on the HP Standards of Business Conduct. On the subject of sexual harassment the HP Standards of Business Conduct document is fairly bare bones:
WE PROMOTE AND PROVIDE A HARASSMENT-FREE ENVIRONMENT
- Do not behave in a disrespectful, hostile, violent, intimidating, threatening, or harassing manner
- Encourage a harassment-free work environment
- Refuse to accept or tolerate sexual harassment, including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other unwelcome verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
No doubt we can expect to hear more on the circumstances surrounding Hurd's exit and the curious gap between various HP standards. Perhaps Hurd failed the so called 'headline test' where its best to exit if something just doesn't look good even if there is no technical breach of policy. In fact HP provides a handy visual reference in the same Standards of Business Conduct for those who prefer a more linear approach in making sense of ethical business dilemmas.
CNET have published an internal email to employees from acting CEO Cathie Lesjak which sheds light on Hurd's breaches of ethical code (my emphasis added):
The investigation was conducted by outside counsel in conjunction with HP's General Counsel's office and was overseen by the Board. Based on the investigation it was determined that the former contractor's claim of sexual harassment was not supported by the facts. The investigation did reveal, however, that Mark had engaged in other inappropriate conduct. Specifically, based on the facts that were gathered it was found that Mark had failed to disclose a close personal relationship he had with the contractor that constituted a conflict of interest, failed to maintain accurate expense reports, and misused company assets. Each of these constituted a violation of HP's Standards of Business Conduct, and together they demonstrated a profound lack of judgment that significantly undermined Mark's credibility and his ability to effectively lead HP.
Each of these conditions are clearly provisioned for in HP's Standards of Business Conduct as follows:
WE AVOID CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
- Make decisions in the best interest of HP
- Discuss with your manager any situation that could be perceived as a potential conflict of interest.
- Proactively address situations that may put your interests or those of a family member in potential conflict with HP
WE MAINTAIN ACCURATE BUSINESS RECORDS
- Create business records that accurately reflect the truth of the underlying transaction or event.
- Sign only documents, including contracts, that you are authorized to sign and that you believe are accurate and truthful
- Remember that email and other electronic communications may be business records; avoid exaggeration, derogatory language, and other expressions that could be taken out of context.
- Retain, protect, and dispose of records according to policy.
WE USE ASSETS WISELY
- Keep personal use of HP assets to a minimum
- Do not allow other people, including friends and family, to use HP resources.
- Do not use HP equipment or systems to violate the law or to create, store, or send content that others might find offensive.
- Avoid any usage that might lead to loss or damage, including the introduction of viruses or a breach of our IT security
- Uphold your responsibility to protect HP financial assets.
Regardless, the top seat won't remain cold for long and already speculation mounts about succession. Larry Dignan reviews all the top contenders here.