Court rules that HP's Hurd investigation document can remain secret

A shareholder had sued to bring the document to light

A document tied to an internal Hewlett-Packard sexual harassment investigation of former CEO Mark Hurd will remain sealed, according to a ruling handed down this week by the Delaware Supreme Court.

HP shareholder Ernesto Espinoza had filed a lawsuit seeking to inspect the document, which was prepared by the law firm Covington and Burling on HP's behalf.

The Delaware Chancery Court had already ruled against Espinoza on grounds his need to see the document wasn't sufficient enough to override "attorney-client privilege and work product immunity protections," the state supreme court said in its ruling, which was handed down Monday. "We affirm, but on the alternative ground that Espinoza has not shown that the Covington Report is essential to his stated purpose, which is to investigate possible corporate wrongdoing."

Hurd resigned from HP in August 2010 and also reached a confidential settlement with a former HP contractor, Jodie Fisher. Shortly thereafter, he took a job as co-president of Oracle.

Although the internal HP investigation did not conclude Hurd was guilty of sexually harassing Fisher, it found he had broken HP's business conduct standards and uncovered a "systematic" series of inaccurate expense reports meant to cover up his relationship with her, the ruling added.

Hurd received a lucrative severance package from HP. Espinoza had argued that if HP's board had reason to fire Hurd "for cause," then the payments shouldn't have been made, the court said.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris's e-mail address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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Chris Kanaracus

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