A letter about former Hewlett-Packard Co. Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd’s relationship with a female contractor must be made public, a court ruled. Hurd’s lawyers petitioned for continued secrecy.
The letter to Hurd, from lawyer Gloria Allred, concerned “allegedly inappropriate conduct” by Hurd toward Jodie Fisher, the Delaware Supreme Court said in an opinion released today in Dover.
“The Supreme Court did not issue a mandate to the trial court ‘forthwith’ with it decision, and thus the parties are permitted 15 days” under court rules to seek re-argument, Hurd lawyer Rolin P. Bissell wrote in papers filed today.
Shareholder Ernesto Espinoza sought the letter along with company books and records in his lawsuit aimed at investigating possible corporate wrongdoing.
“We conclude that the Court of Chancery acted well within its discretion in holding that the Allred letter (as redacted) should be unsealed,” the justices wrote.
The justices said that “although the letter goes into embarrassing detail about Hurd’s behavior, it does not describe any intimate conversations or conduct.”
The decision came after arguments in Dover Oct. 12 challenging a ruling in March by Delaware Chancery Court Judge Donald Parsons Jr. that most of the letter should be released.
The letter contains accusations of sexual harassment and details of Hurd’s alleged advances toward Fisher and her rejection of them, according to Parsons’s ruling.
August 2010 Resignation
Hurd, now president of software maker Oracle Corp., resigned from Palo Alto, California-based HP in August 2010 after a company investigation determined he violated its standards of business conduct.
HP said it didn’t find that Hurd had violated the company’s sexual-harassment policy. The company granted him a severance package of as much as $40 million, according to court papers.
The letter was sent to Hurd by Allred in an attempt to arrange private mediation with Fisher. It includes allegations that Hurd misused corporate funds to “wine and dine Fisher” and leaked potential non-public information about the company to her, Parsons said in his ruling.
Michael Thacker, a spokesman for HP; and Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Oracle, declined to comment on the ruling. Representatives for Hurd and Allred weren’t immediately available to comment or wouldn’t immediately comment on the ruling.
In his unsealing order, Parsons specified brief passages that should be blanked-out. One involves, “the words immediately following the phrase, “You told Ms. Fisher that you were married with two daughters. . . . ”
Parsons also omitted “the entire final sentence following the sentence ending with “talked for about an hour,” and another phrase after the words, “a married man,” according to the order.
The Chancery case is Espinoza v. Hewlett-Packard Co., CA6000, Delaware Chancery Court (Wilmington). The appeal is Hurd v. Espinoza and Hewlett-Packard Co., 167, 2001, Delaware Supreme Court (Dover).