The Work

September 7, 2010 3:35 PM

Gibson Dunn, Seyfarth, Ruby on HP's Suit Against Hurd

Posted by Zach Lowe

It has barely been 24 hours since news broke that Mark Hurd, the former CEO of Hewlett Packard who left the company last month after a miniscandal, has taken a top position at Oracle. And yet HP already has retained a team of heavy-hitting lawyers and filed a lawsuit accusing Hurd of allegedly violating various confidentiality agreements he signed during his time at HP, according to The Wall Street Journal, which broke the story this afternoon and has a copy of the lawsuit here

It's no surprise that HP has retained a team from Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher on the matter; the firm has a strong relationship with HP, and has recently represented the company on its deal for Palm and several messy pieces of litigation. But the company also has added a team of employment litigators from Seyfarth Shaw and Allen Ruby, the famed California litigator who has represented (among many others) tainted baseball slugger Barry Bonds. Robert Cooper of Gibson Dunn and Camille Olson and Robert Milligan of Seyfarth did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The suit centers on confidentiality agreements Hurd signed during his time at HP, agreements he reaffirmed when he left the company on Aug. 6 after Jodie Fisher, a B-level actress who did marketing work for HP, accused him of sexual harassment. An internal investigation headed by HP's in-house legal team and Covington & Burling concluded that Hurd did not violate the company's sexual harassment policy, but that he did arrange for improper payments to Fisher, according to our prior reporting. The agreements, which are attached to the lawsuit, ban Hurd from sharing trade secrets with any new employer or taking a position that would involve the performance of "conflicting business activities" in the first year after Hurd's departure from HP, court records show. The agreement also mandates that Hurd notify HP of his intention to take a job with a competitor if he plans to do so within a year of leaving HP, the suit says. 

The suit accuses Hurd of failing to give HP notice of the Oracle offer and of accepting a position in which he will inevitably disclose HP trade secrets to Oracle, which competes against HP in the server and storage arena. The suit seeks damages, attorney fees, and an injunction barring Hurd from taking a position in which he would violate his promises to keep HP information secret. 

One interesting bit of trivia: You might recall that in the wake of Hurd's resignation, there was one very loud voice touting Hurd's record at HP and criticizing the company for letting him go. That voice belonged to Larry Ellison, the CEO or Oracle, who wrote a letter to The New York Times defending Hurd. 

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