HP had decided to force this month's resignation of chief executive Mark Hurd before he settled a sexual harassment claim from a former actress, according to sources close to the matter.
The board was reportedly frustrated that a settlement between Hurd and Jodie Fisher, a former actress who had worked as an HP contractor, barred the actress from speaking publicly. The company’s directors considered that deal hindered an internal investigation.
Fisher’s accusations, sent in a letter to Hurd in early July according to the Financial Times, were that she was denied work because she would not have sex with Hurd. People close to Hurd said these accounts were misleading.
According to sources close to HP and to Hurd, the company reportedly made decisions on the matter around 28 July, as it received initial findings from its lawyers’ investigation. The decisions would therefore have been before Hurd agreed a settlement with the actress on 4 August.
After settling the claim with Fisher, Hurd reportedly received a letter of congratulation from an HP lawyer, according to a source close to the former chief executive. But on 6 August, the company announced his exit.
Hurd had reportedly argued that the matter should be kept quiet, but HP instead took the advice of its public relations consultants and lawyers and disclosed the settlement, the FT reported.
Hurd was forced out of the company because the board concluded he had broken HP’s code of conduct. While the directors found Hurd had not harassed Fisher, they found improper expense filing that allegedly deliberately failed to reveal the actress’ name on a number of occasions.
Hurd said he was not involved in filing the expenses and was not attempting to conceal any relationship. Fisher has also said that she and Hurd “never had an affair or intimate sexual relationship”.