Being a GC can be a great job. And as ex-HP GC Ann Baskins has learned, at times it’s an extremely difficult one.
Sue Reisinger of Corporate Counsel magazine gives a very close look at the twists and turns Ms. Baskins’ role in the director leak saga. The entire article is worth a close reading.
Beginning like the first page of a novel by Dickens, Ms. Reisinger lets us know quickly who is going to take a large part of the blame:
While Baskins sat quietly, former HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and CEO Mark Hurd told the committee that Baskins was to blame for the mess. They said that she had given them bad legal advice, and that she knew about and permitted the use of “pretexting” — using false pretenses to obtain personal information about others. Even Baskins’ longtime friend and HP’s outside counsel, Larry Sonsini of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, told Congress: “I think the record has become quite clear that who was in charge [of the spying] was the HP internal legal department. They took the responsibility on, rightly or wrongly.”
So much for teamwork, which is tough to expect when you have to go through this:
(Credit: Chuck Kennedy/MCT)
A reaction from a quoted-but-anonymous GC caught my eye:
One GC who has overseen investigations for his Fortune 500 media company says that beyond the legal and the ethical issues, Baskins failed to ask the crucial question: “How will all this affect the company if it shows up on page one of The New York Times?”
Bingo. That’s a line I’ve used in every compliance training I’ve ever performed. (Note: just insert name of local paper; the Times doesn’t resonate everywhere west of the Hudson.)
At the hearing, Congress couldn’t resist the opportunity to manufacture sound bites, either. Why don’t they spend more time on issues that are truly in the national interest? Like steroids in baseball?
In fact, Congress is engaged in some pretexting itself; CEO Mark Hurd still find himself under scrutiny for stock sales at the time things were starting to unravel.