Just in case you thought the Mark Hurd melodrama at Hewlett-Packard had played itself out, a new plot twist is refreshing the story. According to Monday's Wall Street Journal, the HP board voted to fire Hurd after the CEO reached a sexual-harassment settlement without the board's knowledge or input.
The Journal reported that the board felt the settlement got in the way of its investigation. The settlement was reached on Aug. 4 between Hurd and Jodie Fisher, an ex-marketing contractor to HP. The board also canceled a mediation session scheduled for Aug. 5, where Fisher and her lawyer were scheduled to meet with Hurd's lawyer as well as an outside counsel for HP.
But the newspaper also reported that, according to Hurd, HP had given instructions to Hurd to settle with Fisher before the mediation. An unnamed source, familiar with Hurd's thinking, said the former chief executive complied in every way with the board's investigation, although the board reportedly felt Hurd had not cooperated fully.
There isn't even agreement about whether Hurd was asked to speak with the board. Reportedly the board wanted him to but he declined -- but Hurd has reportedly said he was not given that opportunity. The Journal said the board, according to the unnamed source, had "enough evidence of misconduct" before the settlement meeting, including failing to disclose a personal relationship with a contractor and filing expense reports that concealed the truth.
Hurd's forced departure on Aug. 6 on the grounds of violations of HP's code of business conduct, hit the company in its stock price, and there is a shareholder suit over the decisions surrounding the ouster.
Hurd has denied an improper relationship, and Fisher has denied a sexual one.
Key Aide's Resignation
Late last week, information came out indicating that a key aide to Hurd, Caprice Fimbres McIlvaine, resigned on Aug. 9. McIlvaine was head of internal communications at HP and, according to Fortune magazine, was the "key conduit" in hiring Fisher.
Fisher is a former actress who became a marketing contractor at HP and sued Hurd for sexual harassment. McIlvaine had many of the responsibilities of a chief of staff, and she traveled to the same away-from-headquarters customer meetings as Hurd did. Her duties included being the key person for travel arrangements for the events, although some observers have noted that such arrangements are usually conducted by staff outside a CEO's office.
McIlvaine, 37, posted the title of CEO program manager in an online profile. She was the organizer of the CEO Summits, where HP met with top customers, where Hurd spoke, and where Fisher acted as a company greeter.
Fisher, meanwhile, has taken a job as a branch manager at a New Jersey staffing agency that her mother runs. Her mother, Polly McDonald, is the founder and president of Flanders, N.J.-based TeleSearch Staffing Solutions. McDonald said she advised her daughter to continue with the sexual-harassment suit against Hurd when Fisher asked for her advice.