Former Hewlett-Packard Co. (HPQ) Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd tried to persuade Jodie Fisher to have sex and kissed and touched her inappropriately while she was a company events contractor, according to a much-contested letter that was ordered to be released by a court yesterday.
During dinners, hotel-room visits and other meetings in cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta, St. Louis and Madrid between 2007 and 2009, Hurd kissed and embraced Fisher, brushed his hand against her breast and attempted to initiate an affair, according to the letter sent to Hurd on June 24, 2010, by Fisher’s lawyer, Gloria Allred. Hurd, who is now a president at Oracle Corp. (ORCL), wasn’t found to have committed sexual harassment by Hewlett-Packard, and Fisher herself later said the document contained inaccuracies.
“You had designs to make her your lover from the onset using your status and authority as CEO of HP,” Allred said in the letter to Hurd, the contents of which were first reported by Bloomberg News. “At times you would behave professionally seemingly ‘getting’ that she was not going to have sex with you. At other times, not, and you would relentlessly attempt to cajole her into having sex with you.”
The letter, which sought a settlement for sexual harassment, was obtained after a ruling by the Delaware Supreme Court that it should be unsealed as part of the evidence in a shareholder lawsuit against the Palo Alto, California-based company. Hurd’s relationship with Fisher led to his resignation as CEO on Aug. 6, 2010, after a company investigation found he had violated its standards of business conduct. Hurd settled with Fisher the week he resigned.
Since Hurd’s departure, Hewlett-Packard has struggled to revive sales and seen its stock tumble 45 percent. He was replaced last year by Leo Apotheker, who himself was ousted on Sept. 22 and replaced by Meg Whitman.
Allred and Michael Thacker, a Hewlett-Packard spokesman, declined to comment.
In settling with Hurd last year, Fisher and Allred said there was no romantic or sexual affair between the two. Hewlett- Packard’s investigation found that he didn’t violate the sexual- harassment policy.
Fisher told Hurd in a 2010 letter, also obtained by Bloomberg News, that the Allred document had “many inaccuracies in the details” and that the CEO’s behavior didn’t hurt Hewlett-Packard or its reputation.
The Allred “letter was recanted by Ms. Fisher,” said Ken Glueck, a senior vice president for Redwood City, California- based Oracle. “She admitted it was full of inaccuracies.”
Allred’s letter portrays Fisher as being nervous in Hurd’s presence because of his advances. In contrast, e-mails from Fisher to Hurd show her enthusiastically discussing her job. The messages, also obtained by Bloomberg News, depict her politely inquiring about Hurd’s family and describing him as “fun” to work with.
The eight-page letter from Allred to Hurd portrays a two- year romantic pursuit of Fisher, an actress and former contestant on the reality show “Age of Love.” She worked as a greeter at Hewlett-Packard events around the world. Her job was to introduce key customers to Hurd at the events.
According to Allred’s letter, Hurd, who is married with two daughters, made sexual advances toward Fisher during dinners and other meetings. During an October 2007 visit to her hotel room at the Ritz Carlton in Atlanta, Hurd twice touched Fisher’s breast and asked her to stay in his room for the night, the letter said. Two months later in a hotel room in St. Louis, he embraced her and quickly kissed her on the lips.
‘Major Strings Attached’
At another meeting, Hurd told Fisher he had girlfriends in New York and San Francisco, according to the letter. He also told her that many women were “crazy about” him, including singer Sheryl Crow, the document said. Jay Cooper, a lawyer at Greenberg Traurig LLP who represents Crow, said he’d never heard her name in connection with Hurd.
At a final meeting in Boise, Idaho, in October 2009, Hurd “grabbed and kissed” Fisher, the letter said. The meetings made her nervous and worried about her employment status, according to the document.
“She felt tired, irritated and depressed, sad and mad with the growing unbending realization that her great new job had some major strings attached,” said Allred, who works at Allred Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles.
Hurd also told Fisher of plans to buy technology services company Electronic Data Systems Corp., a deal that was ultimately completed in 2008 for $13.9 billion, according to the letter. During a meeting in Madrid in March 2008, Hurd walked Fisher to an ATM and showed her his checking account balance of more than $1 million to impress her, the document said.
Amy Wintersheimer, an employment attorney for Hurd at the firm Allen Matkins, said in an e-mailed statement that she sought to keep the letter confidential because it is “filled with inaccuracies.”
“The truth is, there never was any sexual harassment, which HP’s investigation confirmed, and there never was any sexual relationship, which Ms. Fisher has confirmed,” Wintersheimer said.
Hewlett-Packard shareholder (HPQ) Ernesto Espinoza sought the letter, along with company books and records, in a suit aimed at investigating possible corporate wrongdoing in conjunction with the payment of Hurd’s severance package of as much as $40 million, according to court papers.
After Hurd received Allred’s letter, he turned it over to Hewlett-Packard’s general counsel. Espinoza’s lawyer has said publicizing the letter would help “air out” details of Hurd’s departure from the company.
This week’s court decision followed Oct. 12 arguments in Dover challenging a ruling in March by Delaware Chancery Court Judge Donald Parsons Jr. that most of the letter should be released.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at firstname.lastname@example.org