Legal Shake-Up with HP Securities Suit

Hewlett-Packard’s lawyers at Morgan, Lewis, & Bockius have beaten another lawsuit brought against the company in the wake of one executive’s unethical conduct. High-powered plaintiff’s attorneys at Kirby McInerney and Glancy Binkow & Goldberg filed a securities lawsuit in which they claimed that HP had intentionally misled its investors for a period of more than four years. This brought down significant heat on the company, and it was another in a long line of suits relating to the conduct of Mark Hurd, the company’s disgraced CEO.

Hurd took the top role at HP in 2005, and it wasn’t long after that he became entangled in an ugly situation. Taking over as corporate chairman in 2006, Hurd oversaw a period of transition for the company, as it looked to recover from an earlier spying scandal by high-powered executives. Part of Hurd’s plan was to rebuild the company’s reputation by instituting ethics and compliance programs. He even required all employees to agree to a code of ethics that required them to be open, honest, and willing to disclose their business records.

Things turned ugly for Hurd and the company a few years later. In 2007, the company hired Jodie Fisher as its marketing consultant, and Hurd took a particular interest to the former porn star. After she went nearly everywhere with him for a period of more than one year, she left the company and filed a subsequent sexual harassment lawsuit. Though the lawsuit never succeeded in court, Hurd resigned amid allegations that he used company funds to treat Fisher to a number of nice meals. Hurd had covered up the expenses in an effort to hide his affair.

The most recent claim asserts that HP misled its investors by having an ethics policy in place while also employing a chairman who completed ignored those policies. A last-ditch effort to bring down the company over the Hurd controversy, this claim was dismissed after a judge found that invalidating a company’s ethics policy on the simple basis of one man’s missteps would render nearly every corporate ethics policy useless.

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