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Woman in HP scandal ‘surprised and saddened’

The woman at the center of the sexual harassment claim that forced the resignation of Mark Hurd revealed her identity and said she is "surprised and saddened" Hurd lost his job.
Image: Jodie Fisher
Jodie Fisher appeared in some racy movies in her 30s and most recently was on an NBC dating show called "Age of Love."
/ Source: news services

The woman at the center of the sexual harassment claim that forced the resignation of Hewlett-Packard Co. CEO Mark Hurd revealed her identity over the weekend and said she is "surprised and saddened" that Hurd lost his job.

Jodie Fisher, 50, an actress and businesswoman, knew Hurd through her contract jobs with HP's marketing department from 2007 to 2009. HP paid her up to $5,000 per event to greet people and make introductions among executives attending HP events that she helped organize.

Fisher echoed Hurd's statement that the two never had a sexual relationship, but neither she nor her lawyer, celebrity attorney Gloria Allred, would discuss details of the harassment claim.

That claim set off the chain of events that led to the discovery of allegedly falsified expense reports for dinners Hurd had with Fisher and ended in Hurd's forced resignation Friday from the world's largest technology company.

Fisher acknowledged that she and Hurd have settled the matter. A person familiar with the case told The Associated Press that Hurd agreed to pay Fisher but would not reveal the size of the payment.

"I was surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this," Fisher said in a statement. "That was never my intention."

Allred, said Fisher is a single mother who is "focused on raising her young son."

Fisher has also worked as a saleswoman, an executive at a commercial real estate company, and as an actress. She appeared in some racy R-rated movies in her 30s and most recently was on a dating show called "Age of Love," in which women competed for the attention of tennis star Mark Philippoussis.

Hurd settled with Fisher on Thursday, a day before he resigned. The settlement did not involve a payment from HP, the person close to the case said.

This person, who spoke on a condition of anonymity, was not authorized to speak publicly about the issue.

The investigation by HP's board of directors found that Hurd listed other people as his dinner partners on expense reports when he'd been out with Fisher. HP also claimed Hurd arranged for her to be paid for work she didn't do.

There was only one instance in which that occurred, the person close to the case said, but it was for an event that was canceled at the last minute and that Fisher's contract required that she would be paid unless an event was canceled 30 days in advance.

The amount of money in question wasn't known.

Hurd, 53, insists they were legitimate business expenses. Hurd says the errors in the reports may have been entered unwittingly by an assistant, according to the person close to the case.

The company determined Hurd didn't violate its sexual harassment policy but broke its rules of conduct and irreparably harmed his credibility and integrity.

Interim CEO Cathie Lesjak said during a conference call with reporters Sunday that investors and big customers she has spoken with have been "extremely supportive."

"They respect how we dealt with the situation with transparency and speed. The bottom line is, the HP brand is strong," she said. Under Hurd, HP spent more than $20 billion on acquisitions to transform itself from a computer and printer maker dependent on ink sales for profits to a well-rounded seller of hardware and lucrative business services.

Hurd, who spent 25 years at ATM maker NCR Corp. before coming to HP in April 2005, became a Wall Street darling. HP's market value nearly doubled during his five years.

HP’s share price fell sharply Monday from its NYSE close of $46.30 on Friday. The company’s shares had fallen 10 percent in extended trade on Friday after HP said an investigation found that Hurd had falsified expense reports to conceal a relationship with a female contractor.

Some analysts said the shares looked cheap after the sell-off, but investors weren't entirely convinced given uncertainty over whether Hurd's successor could lead HP against competitors like IBM, Apple Inc and Cisco Systems Inc.

"Many senior executives fail. So you don't know whether someone is going to be good in the seat until they're in the seat for six to 12, sometimes 24 months... So that's the risk," said Louis Miscioscia, an analyst at Collins Stewart.

HP wants to find a new CEO as soon as possible, and is looking for candidates inside and outside the company. Chief Financial Officer Cathie Lesjak will run the company in the interim, and will not run for CEO, HP said.

HP shares were attractively valued before Friday's shocking news, and looked more so after the decline, Miscioscia said.

"The good thing is that the company is in much better shape than it's been in the last 10 years," he said. "It is no longer a turnaround situation as it was when he took over."