January 20, 2011 2:16 am

HP to reopen Hurd investigation

Hewlett-Packard board members who took office after the departure of Mark Hurd, chief executive, will oversee a new investigation of the circumstances that led to his exit, the company said in a court filing.

The inquiry was disclosed in a case brought by HP shareholders, who argue that company money was wasted when Mr Hurd was given up to $40m in a severance package.

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Though the court document does not name the directors who will oversee the new inquiry, only two have joined the company since Mr Hurd left: the new chief executive, Léo Apotheker, and venture capitalist Ray Lane.

Mr Lane, the new chairman, has been especially vocal about Mr Hurd, becoming the first to accuse him publicly of “lying” to the previous board.

An earlier company probe, triggered by a sex harassment claim, found that Mr Hurd had violated the company’s code of conduct. The initial claim was brought by Jodie Fisher, a former HP contractor, who said she was dropped as a hostess at high-level marketing events because she refused to have sex with Mr Hurd.

The first HP investigation did not substantiate the harassment claim, but determined that expense reports for Mr Hurd had the effect of concealing the extent of their relationship. Nevertheless, it negotiated a lucrative departure for Mr Hurd, who settled privately with Ms Fisher.

The lead plaintiffs in the federal suit say that the pay-out was excessive and that the money should be returned to the company.

The plaintiffs have agreed to delay the proceedings for two months in order to give the new HP directors time to assess the merits of the claims.

HP still plans to bring a motion to dismiss the underlying case, the company’s attorneys said in the filing late last week.

An HP spokeswoman declined to elaborate on the filing.

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