What’s Your Take on the H.P. Case?

On August 9, 2010, The New York Times published an article discussing allegations that Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark V. Hurd had sexually harassed a coworker and falsified business expenses.

According to the article, the H.P. board of directors turned to their public relations representative, an employee at the APCO public relations firm, for counsel. The practitioner said that “H.P. would endure months of humiliation if accusations of sexual harassment by a company contractor against Mr. Hurd became public,” the New York Times reported, and “said the company would be better served by full disclosure, even though an investigation had produced no evidence of sexual misconduct.”

Taking this advice, the article continues, the company’s directors asked Hurd to resign and he did so Aug. 3. Read the full article for more details.


As public relations professionals, we must be able to make educated, ethical decisions that build trust with the public and strengthen the credibility of our profession and organizations. If you are called to assist an organization in crisis, it is your job to aid your client toward an appropriate, ethical solution.

Put yourself in the position of the public relations professional who advised the H.P. board of directors. What would you have advised the board to do?

Remember that the article does not indicate that the public relations specialist advised H.P. to ask Hurd to resign — that seems to have been the board’s decision. He or she did, however, advise the company that bringing the allegations to the public would minimize the criticism the company would face.

As you form an opinion, refer to the PRSA Code of Ethics. Which professional values and code provisions would guide you as you prepared to counsel the H.P. board?

Post your thoughts in the comments and be part of our discussion.

PRSA Code of Ethics





This is a guest post from Vice President of Advocacy Adam Aisner.

1 thought on “What’s Your Take on the H.P. Case?

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      I think that the board made the right call by making the accusations public even after the internal investigation. Had the news leaked without comment from HP, we might be reading much more negative headlines. HP showed the public and its employees that it takes the accusations seriously.

      While I’m not convinced that Mr. Hurd resigning was 100 percent necessary, it won’t hurt HP’s reputation at all. If anything, I think it was an extra precaution, but I don’t fault HP for their decision.

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