HP approves US$3.7 million severance package for lawyer

HP's general counsel, who resigned Thursday amid a pretexting scandal, is offered a $3.7 million severance package.

Hewlett-Packard's (HP's) board of directors has approved a severance package including US$3.7 million in stock options for its general counsel, who resigned Thursday amid a growing scandal into HP's conduct during an investigation into board leaks.

Ann Baskins resigned Thursday just before a U.S. Congress subcommittee hearing on HP's investigation methods, including investigators pretending to be reporters or board members to gain access to their personal telephone records and other data. That practice is often called pretexting.

During the hearing, former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn told lawmakers that Baskins had repeatedly told her the year-long investigation was done legally.

HP filed a form with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Thursday saying it would provide Baskins with a compensation package, including the option to sell her outstanding stock options, worth nearly US$3.7 million, by Nov. 22.

Baskins will also have access to the vested portion of her retirement account at HP and to other benefits. If she accepts the package, she will give up any claims against HP and its employees, according to the SEC document.

Baskins declined to testify before the subcommittee, citing her right to not testify against herself.

Members of the Oversight and Investigations subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce hammered HP officials Thursday for investigators who allegedly lied to gain access to others' personal records, for attempting to trace the e-mail of a reporter and for following reporters and board members.

Representative Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, also questioned why HP was giving Baskins a "golden parachute" after Dunn identified her being one of the internal leaders of the leak investigation. "Do you think that's appropriate?" he asked Dunn.

Dunn, who resigned from the HP board Sept. 21, said she was not a part of the board discussion to approve Baskins' severance package. She would have to hear the discussion before deciding if it was appropriate, she said.

Baskins worked for HP for 24 years and served the company well before the recent questions, Dunn said. "She bled HP blue," Dunn said. "She made some mistakes."

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