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Where's the Shareholder Outrage at Hewlett-Packard?

Here’s a vastly boiled-down refresher on corporate governance: A public company’s management is accountable to its board of directors, which in turn answers to shareholders, who are, after all, the “owners” of said public company. These holders keep executives and directors honest by casting votes based on tens of millions of shares dispersed across individual brokerage accounts, pension plans, and mutual funds. A management that consistently does wrong by shareholders is liable to be evicted from its seat at the mahogany table. For elaboration, please see Gordon Gekko’s speech in the movie Wall Street.

How then have Hewlett-Packard shareholders largely remained so silent while board infighting, botched multi-billion-dollar acquisitions, multiple strategic false starts, and high C-Suite turnover have combined to lop off more than $90 billion of market valuation—the venerable tech company is now worth just $28 billion—since the end of 2009? After management asked on Wednesday for yet further patience as it restructures HP’s sprawling lines of business, shares plunged to where they traded 10 years ago. One prominent analyst observed in the New York Times that HP was the cheapest big-cap stock in 25 years. And that was before its Oct. 3 plunge.