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SEC Said Probing Mark Hurd's HP Departure

U.S. regulators want to know if Hewlett-Packard's former CEO leaked information to a contractor about HP's planned Electronic Data Systems acquisition, say persons familiar with the matter

Dec. 21 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has begun an inquiry into Mark Hurd's departure as chief executive officer from Hewlett-Packard Co., two people familiar with the matter said.

The people declined to be identified because the inquiry hasn't been made public. The securities regulator is looking into whether Hurd leaked information about HP's planned acquisition of Electronic Data Systems Corp. to a contractor, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

Hurd, 53, left HP on Aug. 6 after an investigation found that he violated standards of business conduct by concealing a personal relationship with a contract event coordinator, Jodie Fisher. Hurd leaked information about the proposed acquisition of EDS, the newspaper reported in November, citing the letter from Fisher accusing Hurd of harassment.

The investigation into the harassment of allegation found inaccurate expense reports filed by Hurd or in his name, HP said in August. The company also determined that Hurd didn't violate its harassment policy.

As part of the SEC probe, regulators are also examining Hurd's handling of expense reports and whether he destroyed evidence related to his departure, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

HP is cooperating with an SEC investigation, said Mylene Mangalindan, a spokeswoman for Palo Alto, California-based HP. She declined to discuss what the SEC is investigating.

HP slipped 7 cents to $41.89 in New York Stock Exchange trading yesterday. It had declined 19 percent this year.

Shares Tumble

Shares of HP dropped 18 percent after Hurd's resignation through Aug. 27, as investors fretted that his successor might struggle to replicate the growth he spurred. As CEO since 2005, 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, moving the company into services, networking equipment and smartphones.

"Mark acted properly in all respects," said Glenn Bunting, a spokesman for Hurd. "It is understandable that the SEC is looking into the events surrounding Mark's departure, which was followed by a precipitous drop in the value of HP's stock."

Oracle Corp. hired Hurd as co-president in September, and Leo Apotheker became HP's CEO Nov. 1.

Calls to Hurd's office at Oracle were directed to the company's public relations department. Carol Sato, a spokeswoman for Redwood City, California-based Oracle, declined to comment. John Nester, a spokesman for the SEC, also declined to comment.

Second Letter

While the company determined that Hurd didn't harass Fisher, it found that she received inappropriate payments from HP during her two years as a contractor. A person familiar with Hurd's thinking said in August he never knowingly falsified expense reports or instructed his staff to do so.

After her initial allegation of harassment, Fisher wrote a second letter absolving HP of responsibility and saying that her earlier letter contained "many inaccuracies," according to the Wall Street Journal's report in November.

With assistance from Joshua Gallu in Washington.

Douglas MacMillan is a staff writer for Bloomberg Businessweek in San Francisco. Cory Johnson is a reporter for Bloomberg News.

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