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HP Drops Suit Against its Ex-CEO for Return of Options

Courts in California don’t much like litigation that prevents people from working

HP has settled its suit against its ousted CEO Mark Hurd filed two weeks ago to prevent him from working at Oracle on the theory that he couldn’t help but use its secrets in his new job as president of Oracle.

The suit was based on a reasonable assumption but courts in California, where both companies live and where the suit was filed, don’t much like litigation that prevents people from working so it was given little chance of succeeding.

HP will never know now whether the gambit would have worked. It didn’t rush into court asking for an expedited schedule, Hurd has certainly been working at Oracle, making an appearance on the conference call covering its quarterly results last Thursday and on stage introducing new Oracle Exadata machines Monday at Oracle OpenWorld – boxes that competes against HP – HP didn’t get kicked out of OpenWorld after Oracle CEO Larry Ellison called the suit “vindictive” and said “the HP board is making it virtually impossible for Oracle and HP” – which share some 140,000 accounts – “to continue to cooperate and work together in the IT marketplace” and HP enterprise chief Ann Livermore, a candidate to replace Hurd, was still allowed to give an opening keynote Sunday night.

Now we know why. They’ve been negotiating a settlement, whose terms weren’t disclosed.

In a SEC filing, however, HP said that Hurd “agreed to waive his rights to the 330,177 performance-based restricted stock units granted to Mr. Hurd in January 17, 2008 referenced in paragraph 2.d. of the Separation Agreement and to the 15,853 time-based restricted stock units granted to Mr. Hurd on December 11, 2009 referenced in paragraph 2.e. of the Separation Agreement, which collectively represent the only remaining compensation that Mr. Hurd was entitled to receive under the terms of the Separation Agreement. The terms of the Separation Agreement have not otherwise been modified.”

The stock is supposed to be worth $13.6 million now but doubtless Oracle will make it up to him.

The companies said in a joint press release that “Hurd will adhere to his obligations to protect HP’s confidential information while fulfilling his responsibilities at Oracle.” How exactly that can be policed is unclear.

Both companies also issued statements touching on their partnership.

Ellison, for instance, said, “Oracle and HP will continue to build and expand a partnership that has already lasted for over 25 years.”

CNBC, which broke the news, wondered whether it means that HP has found a replacement for Hurd, who wanted the mess cleaned up before taking the job. It also thinks Hurd may have agreed to a no-go list of accounts.

More Stories By Maureen O'Gara

Maureen O'Gara the most read technology reporter for the past 20 years, is the Cloud Computing and Virtualization News Desk editor of SYS-CON Media. She is the publisher of famous "Billygrams" and the editor-in-chief of "Client/Server News" for more than a decade. One of the most respected technology reporters in the business, Maureen can be reached by email at maureen(at)sys-con.com or paperboy(at)g2news.com, and by phone at 516 759-7025. Twitter: @MaureenOGara

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