December 22, 2010, 10:22 AM — Already this is getting more interesting.
On Tuesday we learned that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had launched a preliminary probe into events surrounding the departure last summer of former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Mark Hurd amid rumors of sexual harassment and expense-account irregularities.
(Also see: SEC's reported probe of Hurd hinges on one thing)
In assessing the SEC case, I referred to Jodie Fisher -- the one-time HP contract hostess who became Hurd's accuser -- as the "wild card." How wild we may never know, if Hurd's legal team is successful in its efforts to prevent from becoming public a letter Fisher wrote detailing her allegations against the then-chief executive of HP.
The eight-page letter, in which former H-P contractor Jodie Fisher accused Mr. Hurd of sexual harassment, is currently under seal in Delaware's Court of Chancery as part of a shareholder suit filed against H-P over the executive's exit.
The law firm for the plaintiff in the lawsuit said in November it intended to make the letter public. Earlier this month, Mr. Hurd's lawyers filed a motion to keep the letter under wraps.
Chancery Court Judge Donald F. Parsons has given no indication when he would rule on the motion, though the WSJ reports that "people familiar" with the case said a decision could come early in 2011.
Neither Hurd, now co-president at Oracle, nor HP have commented on Fisher's letter or the motion to block it from becoming public. But I think we can safely assume whatever's in the document -- true or not -- won't reflect well on Mr. Hurd and may contradict claims he did not have an improper relationship with Fisher.
Or worse. The WSJ writes that "people who have seen" Fisher's letter say it offers details about Hurd sharing insider information with Fisher in March 2008. Fisher claims Hurd told her in March 2008 about HP's plan to buy computer-services vendor Electronic Data Systems for $13.9 billion, a deal HP announced just two months later.
From the WSJ:
Ms. Fisher's letter alleged Mr. Hurd warned her not to use the EDS information. "You told Ms. Fisher that she shouldn't disclose anything about the deal to anyone as it would be considered insider trading if stock was purchased by Ms.