HP Partners React To New Details In Hurd Sexual Harassment Scandal

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With details of former Hewlett-Packard marketing contractor Jodie Fisher's sexual harassment complaint against ex-CEO Mark Hurd now available to the public, some HP channel partners who once held Hurd in high esteem are now rethinking their views.

"I was a huge Mark Hurd fan and even gave him the benefit of the doubt until reading the allegations. It's pretty sad," said one longtime HP channel partner in the Midwest, who requested anonymity. "Hurd apparently tried using power, position and wealth to take advantage of someone, and he got called on it."

Fisher's attorney Gloria Allred, in a detailed letter sent to Hurd in June 2010 that was published Thursday by All Things Digital, alleges that Hurd made a series of unwanted -- and increasingly insistent -- sexual advances toward Fisher. These took place between the time Fisher was hired in August of 2007 until her employment with HP ended in October of 2009, and included several incidents in which Hurd touched and kissed Fisher inappropriately, according to the allegations in the letter.

"At times you would behave professionally seemingly 'getting' that she was not going to have sex with you," Allred says in the letter. "At other times, not, and you would relentlessly attempt to cajole her into having sex with you."

The letter relates a scenario in which Hurd showed Fisher his ATM checking account balance of more than $1 million in an attempt to impress her. Hurd also told Fisher about HP's impending acquisition of EDS two months before the $13.9 billion deal was announced, according to the letter.

Another longtime HP solution provider on the East Coast who also partners with Oracle believes that the scandal is more an issue of personal ethics than business ethics. That said, the nature of the allegations against Hurd, and the detailed information spelled out in the letter, are impossible to overlook, the source said.

"A person's ethics are an indicator of their values, and a lot of times that transitions over to business," said the source, who requested anonymity.

HP declined to comment. Oracle's stance is that Fisher has already called the accuracy of the letter into question.

"This letter was recanted by Ms. Fisher. She admitted it was full of inaccuracies," Oracle Senior Vice President Ken Glueck said in an e-mailed statement.

Allred's letter, which Hurd's lawyers have been fighting to keep sealed for more than a year, ultimately led to Hurd's resignation from HP in August 2010. An internal HP investigation found no evidence of sexual harassment but did find that Hurd had violated HP’s Standards of Business Conduct in his interactions with Fisher, prompting HP's board to ask for his resignation.

While Allred's letter was aimed at reaching a settlement, it later emerged that Hurd brokered his own settlement with Fisher, without the sanction of HP's board. Fisher then sent a letter to Hurd claiming that Allred's letter contained unspecified "inaccuracies." Both Hurd and Oracle have echoed this, although none of the parties involved have given any indication as to what inaccuracies information the letter contains.

In September 2010, Hurd joined Oracle as co-president, much to the dismay of HP partners who had by that time lionized the HP CEO for his commitment to the channel. Some HP partners even discussed the prospect of maintaining ties with Hurd by partnering with Oracle.

At Oracle, Hurd is currently facing the same kind of margin-squeezed hardware direct/indirect sales channel issues he faced after taking the helm at HP in 2005. But the Midwest HP partner doesn't believe that the rekindling of Hurd's sexual harassment allegations will have any impact on the way he's viewed by Oracle channel partners.

"I don’t see much impact, other than some interesting reading that might be useful to other executives that think they are above the law," said the source.

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