SEC Mark Hurd Investigation Heats Up, Lessons Learned - Page 2

Rob Enderle
The Criminal Lesson


There are a lot of lessons in this event, and I previously covered one on perceptions. However this time, because what has been alleged is criminal, it doesn't matter whether Hurd settled with Fisher or not, and if Fisher supplied the information that was shared with her, she may now be charged criminally along with Hurd. This is the danger of claiming a crime: Law enforcement agencies have their own agenda because their mission is to protect the citizens of the state. The state is their client and the agencies can continue an investigation for years, and can actually leave it and return to it later if more information shows up.


The result is no longer under the control of Hurd, Fisher, Ellison or HP's board, and only HP's board acted in enough time to protect itself. The settlement with Fisher may now look like an attempt to cover up the crime. Attempting to bury the claim created the appearance of a bigger crime that cost Hurd his job at HP and may still cost him his job at Oracle.


As for Fisher, by adding some spice to her allegation of wrongful termination, she clearly damaged Hurd more than she intended, reduced her chance of settlement and may now end up worse off than she otherwise would have been.


Wrapping Up


The after-the-fact lesson here is that Hurd likely should not have settled with Fisher because of the insider trading allegation and that this allegation should have been fully vetted. These things happen and as long as no one traded on the information, the state and board might be lenient. But even if there was trading, there is a huge difference between admitting the mistake and having it be discovered after the appearance of a cover-up.


The one lesson that everyone should fully understand is that while it may seem attractive to build criminal complaints into civil actions, managing them can be nearly impossible. It is probably best to separate the efforts and make damn sure a crime has actually been committed before making allegations. Also, recognize that such a complaint can be a dual-edged sword because the investigating agency, to protect itself, will likely have to investigate you, too. The old "glass houses and stones" saying plays well here.


Of course it should go without saying that executives shouldn't be messing around with employees and sharing pillow talk. But given how often this seems to happen, I'll say it anyway.


It depends on what the SEC finds, but if they find that Hurd did share insider information, Oracle may no longer be able to afford him. Then the question will be whether Larry has to step down as well. You may think the odds are long, but the reality is that we have no idea yet what those odds are and no executive is invulnerable.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Post a comment





(Maximum characters: 1200). You have 1200 characters left.




Subscribe to our Newsletters

Sign up now and get the best business technology insights direct to your inbox.