Dec 29 (Reuters) - An appeals court ruled that a letter linked to Mark Hurd's abrupt departure from his post as
chief of Hewlett-Packard Co should be unsealed,
potentially revealing new details about his dramatic exit from
the technology giant.
Delaware Supreme Court Justice Carolyn Berger said in an
opinion dated Wednesday that while the letter contained
"embarrassing detail about Hurd's behavior," it did not describe
any "intimate conversations or conduct."
Legal experts said the ruling means that the public will
almost certainly get to read the disputed document.
"The Delaware Supreme Court is the final word on corporate
law matters, so this would be the end of the process," said
Kevin Brady, a partner with Connolly Bove Lodge & Hutz.
The letter was sent to Hurd from Gloria Allred, a
high-profile California attorney, on behalf of independent
contractor Jodie Fisher, who had accused him of sexual
harassment. It prompted the world's top computer maker to
investigate Hurd, who is now a president at rival Oracle
Fisher has previously said that the letter contains "many
inaccuracies." Both Oracle and Hurd's attorney reiterated this
"This letter was recanted by Ms. Fisher. She admitted it
was full of inaccuracies," Oracle Senior Vice President Ken
Glueck said in an emailed response to Reuters. He did not
Hurd's attorney, Amy Wintersheimer, said in a statement on
Thursday that her client had wanted to keep the letter
confidential for that reason as well.
"The truth is, there never was any sexual harassment, which
HP's investigation confirmed, and there never was any sexual
relationship, which Ms. Fisher has confirmed," Wintersheimer
Although HP's board found no evidence of sexual harassment,
Hurd stepped down after the company accused him of filing
inaccurate expense reports involving Fisher.
The decision affirms a March 18 ruling by the Delaware
Chancery Court, which ordered that most of the contents of the
letter would be made public within 10 days.
The judge ordered that some portions of the letter would
remain under seal. For example, the order read "On page seven,
first full paragraph: redact the entire rest of the paragraph
following the first sentence ending with 'a married man.'"
Some of the letter's details have already been released in
court documents. The Chancery Court's 71-page ruling on the
matter in March noted that the letter accused Hurd of using
corporate funds to "wine and dine" Fisher and leaked to her
"potentially material" nonpublic information about the company.
The dispute over the letter stems from a lawsuit by a
shareholder, Ernesto Espinoza, who is seeking HP's records
relating to Hurd's resignation and severance package. The
company agreed the letter was not confidential, but Hurd
intervened in the case to fight to keep it from the public.
Representatives for Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Espinoza
The case is Ernesto Espinoza v Hewlett Packard Co, Delaware
Chancery Court, No. 6000.
(Reporting By Jim Finkle; Additional reporting by Jeremy
Pelofsky and Tom Hals)
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