Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

Summary: Sustainability business guru Marc Gunther reckons Mark Hurd got off easy in being allowed to resign and secure a generous severance package. Referring to Hurd's dealings with actress Jodie Fisher:In plain English, this means that he sent money to her that belongs to HP shareholders for work that she did not do.

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Sustainability business guru Marc Gunther reckons Mark Hurd got off easy in being allowed to resign and secure a generous severance package. Referring to Hurd's dealings with actress Jodie Fisher:

In plain English, this means that he sent money to her that belongs to HP shareholders for work that she did not do. If true, this is clearly a firing offense. If it’s not fraud, then what is it? The HP board, it seems to me, should have fired Hurd for cause and taken away his severance, which is being valued at about $35 million......

But, in an email to the New York Times today, Oracle boss, Larry Ellison, puts forward a different take on what's best for HP shareholders:

The H.P. board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago....That decision nearly destroyed Apple and would have if Steve hadn’t come back and saved them. In losing Mark Hurd, the H.P. board failed to act in the best interest of H.P.’s employees, shareholders, customers and partners.

Indeed the shareholders today had their say - as Erica Ogg reported, HP shares closed down 7.4%.

 Ellison sheds more light on the HP board deliberations last week and by his account they were initially split on the decision to go public about the sexual harassment investigation before finally reaching a unanimous decision to do so. However, HP are holding firm in their denial of this account:

As the company stated previously the Board, voted unanimously for Mr. Hurd’s resignation. And, that was the only vote the Board took on this issue.

According to New York Times sources, once the decision had been made to go public about the sexual harassment investigation, negotiations between Hurd and the board soured and both sides quickly agreed on resignation as the only way forward. The New York Times source also suggests that the issue of this disclosure was the main point of contention. So what about the all important ethical violations relating to conflict of interest, failure to maintain accurate expense reports & misuse of company assets where the board did find violations?

The truth is known only on to a few but this much is clear - the path to theoretical ethical decision runs true for us sustainability bloggers, Greek philosophers and corporate brochures. Real life tends to be messier.

Topics: IT Employment, CXO, Emerging Tech, Hewlett-Packard

James Farrar

About James Farrar

James has more than 15 years of experience working on corporate sustainability issues from both the corporate and NGO campaigning perspective.

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11 comments
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  • One word: LIABILITY

    End of story.

    The dude open Pandora's box when he became a liability. The company had no choice but to get rid of him and the open box.
    wackoae
    • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

      @wackoae that would appear to the perception of the board also. Exactly how this really unfolded we just dont know.
      jamesfarrar.1@...
  • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

    I asked my boss what our company severance package is for those fired for stealing. Based on his response, I guess stealing isn't the preferred route to early retirement from our firm.

    I guess there's no point in speculating about what would make someone at Hurd's income level think he had to steal from his employer. It's certainly a gross insult to the HP employees who live on regular wages and don't walk out of there with so much as a paper clip. And the board's decision sends the mixed message that while you can't work there if violate their ethical standards, if you're high enough up in the food chain, your termination will be more reward than punishment.
    1DaveN
    • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

      @DaveN_MVP its a fair analysis but I guess removing the CEO is also a tricky maneouver for the board. Certainly the pay out makes for a quicker and cleaner break even if it is perceived as unjust.But you're right ... its speculation....
      jamesfarrar.1@...
  • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

    I don't think this is about stealing. The sums involved were probably trivial (certainly compared to his pay packet). The issue is all about 'trust'.

    As stated, '...things turned sour after the board decided to go public...' - that is what must really have hurt. However, given that the Board then went public on the issue how on earth did they get in to a position whereby he was allowed to resign !

    Given the amounts involved in the severance package versus the potential amount in an expenses claim, one must wonder quite who and how the company's assets have been misapplied !
    Sophronite
    • RE: ...who and how the company's assets have been misapplied !

      @Sophronite

      At this point in time, there is only one group of people who (collectively) can do anything about it - HP's stockholders. If enough of them think that the board decision was misguided, their only recourse is to `s--tcan the board` at a stockholder's meeting. I have to agree with you, considering the amount of the severance package, the stockholders got screwed. However, this is the price high flying CEO's extract from a company before they sign on the dotted line, and put their `a-- in a sling`.
      fatman65535
      • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

        @fatman65535 I agree but I think its fair to say that shareholders will take a pragmatic rather than purist view. That said, a group of shareholders are suing the board over this....
        jamesfarrar.1@...
    • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

      @Sophronite good questions you raise. The fact is we just don't know why the board acted in the way it did. Maybe down the road more will be relived. Its an interesting study.
      jamesfarrar.1@...
  • Is the issue misappropriation or triviality?

    In my opinion, what Hurd did is tantamount to misappropriation; dishonest use or misuse of funds. It does not matter whether the sums involved where trivial. Would a court of law accept a plea of triviality of value of property or money as defence in a theft?
    F1980@...
    • RE: Ethics of Exit - two opposing views on HP's ousting of Hurd

      @F1980@... I take your point and yet it took HP's board 5 weeks to deliberate on it.....
      jamesfarrar.1@...
    • RE:Is the issue misappropriation or triviality?

      @F1980@... >>>It does not matter whether the sums involved where trivial. Would a court of law accept a plea of triviality of value of property or money as defence in a theft? <<<

      Well, yes. Most jurisdictions recognize the difference between misdemeanor and felony theft. I think that was the pretext used to fire him. Who knows what the real reason is?
      richdave