Carly Fiorina Responds to Criticism of Hewlett-Packard Sales in Iran

HP built up a 40 percent market share in Iran despite the fact that U.S. companies were banned from selling there.

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Carly Fiorina, former chairman and chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard Co. and 2016 Republican presidential candidate, listens before speaking during a campaign stop at the Stellar Industries production facilities in Garner, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2015.

Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Carly Fiorina said Sunday that neither she nor Hewlett-Packard should be faulted for the sales of millions of HP printers in Iran when such business was prohibited by U.S. law. 

Appearing on Fox's Fox News Sunday, Fiorina said that despite being the CEO of HP when the Iranian sales took place via a third party, she was unaware of them. 

"First, HP, you need to remember, was larger than each of the 50 states," Fiorina said. "It's a larger budget than any one of our 50 states, and a global enterprise. And so it's impossible to ensure that nothing wrong ever happens. The question is what do you do when you find out." 

“Are you saying you didn’t know about it?” host Chris Wallace asked.

“In fact, the SEC investigation proved that neither I nor anyone else in management knew about it…” she insisted, adding,  “...when the company discovered this three years after I left, they cut off all ties. The SEC investigated very thoroughly and concluded that no one in management was aware.”

A 2008 Boston Globe investigation found that, while U.S. companies were banned from selling goods to Iran, an Indian company in Dubai called Redington Gulf had sold HP printers there. They sold them so well, in fact, that HP had 41 percent market share in Iran by 2007. Redington Gulf obtained the printers through a European subsidiary. 

Wallace asked Fiorina why HP had named Redington Gulf its "Wholesaler of the Year" award in 2003 if the company wasn't aware of its sales to Iran, Fiorina again deflected blame. 

"The wholesaler of the year that you're describing was doing business with another company that was doing business with Iran. Clearly that wholesaler of the year, which should not have been wholesaler of the year, was not honest in their dealings with us, and they were not honest in their dealings with this third company."

Fiorina was also asked about the HP's struggles during her tenure, which included layoffs of 30,000 employees and a drop in share price. Fiorina said, as she has said before, that her time at HP (from 1999 until early 2005) was a period marked by widespread faltering in the technology industry. 

"It's important to remember that I led HP during the worst technology recession in 25 years," Fiorina said, saying the Nasdaq technology stock index dropped by 80 percent and took 15 years to recover from that recession.

Host Chris Wallace pointed out that, by the time Fiorina was fired, the Nasdaq had only dropped 23 percent, compared with HP's share price, which was down twice as much at the same time. 

"Yes and that technology-heavy stock index dropped again," Fiorina said. "There are people who look at a stock one day at a time. I never led that way."

Fiorina stressed that those who were laid off at HP got generous severance packages and career counseling, and said that if she were the president, government jobs would wind up cut, too. 

"When you have a big, bloated bureaucracy costs too much, that is becoming inept—and by the way that’s what we have in Washington, D.C.—then there are some jobs that have to go away," she said. "And I will say as president of the United States, 256,000 baby boomers are going to retire out of the federal government in the next four or five years. I will not replace a single one." 

CORRECTION: The original version of this story misstated the number of baby boomers who will retire out of the federal government. 

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