The HPQ Twins on 60 Minutes

by Johnny Debacle

Last night, the news program 60 Minutes, had the Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ) twins, Pattie Dunn and Carly Fiorina, on back-to-back.

Lesson learned? Self delusion is incredibly powerful.

Pattie Dunn thinks she is the bestest. Nobody can take away the fact that she is now a member of the Bay Area Hall of Fame and she wears it in her disposition. Not even the light exposing her pretexting and corporate board spying can stop her internal propaganda machine.

She maintains:

  1. She never did anything illegal or unethical.
  2. She does not deny pretexting or spying on board members (how are these not at the very least unethical). She insists it was all vetted through lawyers and done with the board’s approval (if there was a leak, why would he approve these acts?)
  3. As to the attempts to spy on/pretext board members which grew into spying on and pretexting journalists, Patti Dunn had no knowledge of nor involvement in the latter activity.
  4. This entire affair is just Tom Perkins out to get her. Dunn’s version: After the legal ethical board-approved (according to Dunn) spying and pretexting revealed that George Keyworth was the leak, Pattie let Tom know that she was going to have him removed from the board. Pattie says that then Tom was outraged, and that he thought all along they would just let the leak know they found him out and make him promise to never do it again. Keyworth was a friend of Tom Perkins, and in retaliation of Dunn’s removal of Keyworth from the board, Perkins created a massive PR campaign about the spying/pretexting and brought it to the authorities, spinning it against Dunn just as a big FU. Perkins version: he quit the board as soon as he learned that Dunn had authorized spying and pretexting.
  5. She shrugged her shoulders when asked by Lesley Stahl why it was that HP had to settle with Keyworth, after they removed him from the board. She said she didn’t know why. Certainly not because settling is something you do with someone you don’t want to sue your company for illegally violating their privacy, right Pattie?

Dunn thinks it’s all about her, Perkins is out to get her, spinning it against her. She takes no responsibility for acting in a way which is clearly unethical and likely illegal (even if it was vetted by HP’s legal department). She bears all the hallmarks of a bureaucrat, an executive’s executive who rose not by adding value or by being a leader of men, but by protecting herself, controlling her battlefields and using poltical tactics. She had the same look on her face as one of the people featured on the To Catch a Predator Dateline series, steadfastly sticking to the idea that she had done nothing wrong in the face of explicit contradictory evidence.

After a commercial break, 60 Minutes trotted out Carly Fiorina, who has a fortuitously-timed book coming out on Tuesday. Carly is well known as the CEO who was like the pilot of the Hindenburg, making HPQ stock soar from the the 60′s to below 20 and making accretive acquisitions (e.g. Compaq) go smoothly. She claims she was blindsided by her firing. Given that she did such an incredible job at the helm of HPQ, it was very odd that HPQ stock bumped 10% on the news of her firing and that HPQ has done very well after changing course from her corporate direction.

Carly on her firing:

“There were no improprieties. I can only conclude it was personal in some way.”

Here is an article from the day she was fired titled Fiorina out, HP stock soars
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“The stock is up a bit on the fact that nobody liked Carly’s leadership all that much,” said Robert Cihra, an analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners. “The Street had lost all faith in her and the market’s hope is that anyone will be better.”

When faced with a resume of illegal and unethical acts, Pattie believed the opposite to be true. When faced with a resume of ineffective leadership, poor stock performance and questionable corporate direction, Carly maintained that the opposite is true. At no point during either interview did either woman give a hint that they were operating a reality based existence. Both women are referred to as “strong” but if you watched them, their strength was their craziness that allowed them to function completely adrift from the the ship of reality.

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