Until now, Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd has been squarely in the eye of the hurricane that is the HP leak probe--you know, that place in the middle of the storm where everything's calm and quiet. No more.
According to emails obtained by the Washington Post, Hurd approved a complex ruse to trick CNET reporter Dawn Kawamoto into revealing her sources on HP's board. The Post cited one Feb. 23 email from HP senior counsel Kevin Hunsaker, who led the probe, to HP Chairman Patricia Dunn: "FYI, I spoke to Mark a few minutes ago and he is fine with both the concept and the content."
It's a good bet that when Hurd holds a press conference early Friday afternoon, it will be the most important performance of his career. Given the slow-motion train wreck that the probe and its aftermath have become, it's hard to see how he will be able to finesse his way out of this situation, as HP has been trying to do from the start.
You don't have to take sides on this mess to believe that he simply has to come clean, tell exactly what happened, and explain what he's doing to make absolutely sure such tactics aren't used again. Few people would deny him and the company the right to plug leaks. But it's time to get back to this key tenet of The HP Way:
We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity. We expect HP people to be open and honest in their dealings to earn the trust and loyalty of others. People at every level are expected to adhere to the highest standards of business ethics and must understand that anything less is unacceptable. As a practical matter, ethical conduct cannot be assured by written HP policies and codes; it must be an integral part of the organization, a deeply ingrained tradition that is passed from one generation of employees to another.