Baby Boomer Ethics

2010 August 23
by mark

The dust is settling on the recent exit of Mark Hurd from the CEO position of HP. There is rampant speculation as to why a high performing executive was asked to leave. Actually, it appears he was paid about $40M to quit, but that’s another story. A number of prominent business people have weighed in on how odd it was that such a high performing guy (another story) was brought down by such a trifling offense. The tabloid journalists have been drooling over the salacious details that don’t yet add up, and we’ve been watching (yet another story).

But here’s what I think is even more important:
- Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, says that “firing” Hurd was the worst decision by a board of directors since the Apple board tossed Steve Jobs.
- Tabloid news talks endlessly about the intrigue and the personal details of the story.
- The hue and cry about the potential financial impact of the decision on one of the iconic American companies has been deafening.
- And no one seems to be talking much about the fundamental ethics of what happened.

Here is what I think is the key fact: Regardless of all of the innuendo and speculation, Mark Hurd apparently was relieved from his duties because he violated company Standards of Business Conduct- one that apparently actually applies to all employees of the company. He embezzled $20,000. The interim CEO, Cathy Lesjak, said in effect that after the Boomer board of directors debated and agonized for quite some time, they decided that he violated the SBC so he was out. End of story. It’s gratifying (to believe, for me at least) that there is an ethical position that a large corporation will take that transcends the consideration of Billions Of Dollars.

If we can believe it, fellow Baby Boomers, this time it may not have been about the money, or power, or status, or the stock price, or image, or scandal, or fellow Boomers in high places, or anything other than a simple ethical decision. That’s, I think, why it seems so strange to us. It might give the impression that this generation isn’t so big on ethics.

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