TEXT OF INTERVIEW
SCOTT JAGOW: The first criminal charges were filed last week in the Hewlett-Packard case. California’s attorney general says there could more to come. Newsweek’s Allan Sloan’s been covering Wall Street for many, many years. We asked him to weigh in on what happened at HP.
ALLAN SLOAN: Well, I think it’s completely grotesque. Whoever did it deserves to have his or her head examined and to say ‘well I ordered this investigation but I didn’t know what happened . . .’ Well, maybe in the weasely world of politics you can get away with that, say you didn’t know, but in the world of business, you’re in charge and there’s responsibility for what you do.
JAGOW: Well you would think with all of the corporate scandals that we’ve had, why would companies continue to push the envelope?
SLOAN: Because in the end what you have is, in the case of Hewlett-Packard, you have people acting like people. And people get angry and some of the people at the top of Hewlett-Packard grew angry because they though members of the board of directors were talking out of school. So they ordered up this investigation, spied on the people. In the process of course they spied on people like you and me but they don’t really care about that and probably broke the law. If I were a Hewlett-Packard shareholder or an employee I would thank God for the attorney general of California.
JAGOW: And why is that?
SLOAN: Because Mr. Lockyer has made sure not to pull an Eliot Spitzer. Eliot Spitzer went after companies. And if a company is indicted for a felony that can be a serious business. Here, what he did is he went after the now-departed chairwoman Patricia Dunn, who had no impact on how the company ran, and has gone after a bunch of small-fry but has not gone after the company, not gone after the CEO, so what he has here is the appearance of tough prosecution without the risk of seriously hurting his big hometown company Hewlett-Packard.
JAGOW: Well as “grotesque” as this might be, to use your word, I’ve heard some people say lost in all of this is the fact that a board member did leak information to media in the first place. How big of a sin is that on Wall Street?
SLOAN: Well if it’s a sin then I need to go back to my synagogue and do some more repenting because you know I’ve bee a recipient of these things. Any many times what appear to be leaks are actually authorized. Also remember a member of the board has a legal and moral obligation to the shareholders to do what’s best for them. You know, if he or she thinks what’s best for them is to take an argument that’s been inside outside, well, you can fire ’em if you want but to break the law to go after them doesn’t seem like the right thing to do. Don’t go tapping their phones and sneaking up and getting personal information without even bothering to ask them.
JAGOW: Allan Sloan is the Wall Street editor for Newsweek magazine. In Los Angeles, I’m Scott Jagow. Thanks for listening and enjoy your Monday.
There’s a lot happening in the world. Through it all, Marketplace is here for you.
You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible.
Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.