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August 18, 2010 4:27 PM

Skadden Has Part in Evolving HP Turmoil

Posted by Brian Baxter

Only a few years after Hewlett-Packard reshuffled its upper management in the wake of a pretexting scandal that roiled the company, the Palo Alto-based tech giant is again dealing with the fallout from the resignation of its former CEO Mark Hurd two weeks ago. Now new details have emerged about Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom's role advising HP's board of directors on the matter.

Last week sibling publication Corporate Counsel reported that HP had retained Covington & Burling to help with an investigation by the company's board of directors into allegations that Hurd had an inappropriate personal relationship with Jodie Fisher, a former actress and marketing and event planning consultant for the company.

Hurd settled a sexual harassment claim made by Fisher the day before his resignation--as widely reported, the settlement did not involve any payments from HP. (Fisher is represented by high-powered lawyer Gloria Allred.) While the company's investigation cleared Hurd of violating its sexual harassment policy, it did find that he made improper payments to Fisher and falsified expense reports. Enter Skadden.

On Wednesday Reuters reported that Skadden lawyers urged HP's directors to disclose Fisher's sexual harassment allegation even though the company was not required to do so and even though the board soon learned the allegations themselves were unsubstantiated.

Colleen Mahoney, the head of Skadden's securities enforcement and compliance practice, is acting as independent counsel to HP's board along with veteran corporate partner Peter Atkins, according to firm spokesman Harald Stavenas. He declined to comment further.

Skadden's role isn't surprising. The firm has served as outside counsel to HP on several major acquisition and corporate restructuring efforts, including the company's mammoth $25 billion merger with Compaq in 2001.

HP's in-house legal department, which went through a significant shakeup after the pretexting scandal several years ago, was recently named a finalist for Corporate Counsel's Best Legal Department of the Year.

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