Judge dismisses shareholder claim against Hewlett-Packard

Maryland businesses may be interested in the resolution of a shareholder lawsuit against a major Silicon Valley technology company. The lawsuit was brought about when the company’s former CEO, who had been credited with improving the company’s financial position, was accused of sexual harassment.

Technology company Hewlett-Packard has Standards of Business Conduct in place, describing its commitment to acting ethically in its business practices. The standards were updated in 2006 after private company information was leaked to the media. In 2010, the then-CEO was accused of harassment by an independent consultant working for the company. Although an internal investigation found no wrongdoing, the CEO left because of the allegations.

A group of shareholders filed a lawsuit against HP in a San Francisco federal court, alleging that the Standards of Business Conduct were misleading in light of the supposed actions of the former CEO. The CEO, they argued, artificially inflated the company’s share price. In August 2013, the judge held that the shareholder’s claims were not specific enough and dismissed the case without prejudice so that they could refile. On June 25, the judge dismissed a new complaint. Although the new complaint was sufficiently specific, the judge did not find that there was any real violation of ethical standards.

When a shareholder dispute threatens to escalate into litigation, an attorney could negotiate a settlement to avoid lengthy litigation or represent the business at trial. The attorney might also advise the business on other business disputes, such as breach of contract or fiduciary duty.

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