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Heisted Voice Mail Holds Up HP
In a week where an errant e-mail publicly divulged the confidential identities of Global Crossing suitors, a heisted voice mail by an anonymous “Deep Ear” distracts HP.
Two days before HP shareholders were to vote on the company's purchase of Compaq, HP CEO Carly Fiorina left an urgent voice mail for CFO Bob Wayman, telling him that they might have to "do something extraordinary'' to persuade two investors to support the hotly contested deal.
On Wednesday, the voice mail’s contents were leaked to the San Jose Mercury News. How this happened is the subject of considerable intrigue, especially since Wayman had apparently deleted it from his mailbox.
The voice mail reveals a bit of the intense but predictable last-minute lobbying by HP executives on the eve of the tight March 19 shareholder vote. In it, the highly-polished Fiorina doesn't scintillate: in fact, she sounds fatigued with the weight of behind-the-scenes pressures.
In the March 17 voice mail, Fiorina told Wayman that she had talked to Alan Miller, HP's chief solicitor of shareholder proxy votes. Miller was nervous about how Deutsche Bank and Northern Trust planned to vote, she said.
"So the suggestion is that you call the guy at Deutsche Bank again first thing Monday morning,'' Fiorina said. `"And if you don't get the right answer from him, then you and I need to demand a conference call, an audience, etc., to make sure that we get them in the right place. So Alan is feeling like you need a definite answer from the vice chairman, and if it's the wrong one, we have to swing into action.''
The Mercury News posted the audio clip online, an action that would seem to court legal action from HP.
Corporate security experts say voice mail records are easily retrievable to anyone who knows how to access the computer on which a company's voice mails are stored.
In a companywide e-mail sent Thursday, Hewlett-Packard Chief Financial Officer Bob Wayman chastised employees for recent breaches of security, denied allegations that HP coerced shareholder votes, then appealed for employee support of Chief Executive Carly Fiorina.
In an e-mail response to the leak sent out by Wayman on Thursday, he told employees he felt "personally violated'' by the voice mail leak, adding "it is illegal and damaging to the company and your fellow employees.''
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