Aye, Carly

Carly Fiorina
Carly Fiorina

There are nearly 13 months to go before the next presidential election. The negative flack will only intensify. Carly Fiorina is the piñata for “30,000 HP jobs going overseas” and for being fired as Hewlett Packard’s CEO (1999-2005).

Both charges make good straw.

Youthful New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin predictably authored a hostile anti-Fiorina column in August 2015, later countered by Tom Perkins. Perkins was on the HP board when Fiorina was fired. He went on to found “California venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, arguably the most famous and successful VC firm in Silicon Valley history.”

Last month Perkins retorted with “The Truth about Carly.” The article’s authenticity is verified by TruthorFiction.com, and while the content is lengthy (anyone can look it up), there are some tell-tale highlights from a man who “was in the room for many of the decisions she made” – versus bomb-throwing outsiders.

Perkins attests to Fiorina’s “leadership, accuracy of her vision and the accuracy of her vision and the quality of her management,” leading “HP through one of the worst economic times in decades.”

Fiorina was hired when HP was sinking, and in his experience, she revived and escalated it to a world competitor, saying, “Less than two years into Carly’s leadership, the dot-com bubble went bust. Silicon Valley was in chaos. Companies were shedding jobs almost daily. There were so many layoffs, the Associated Press ran weekly announcements regarding layoffs at tech companies. And (sic) the San Francisco Chronicle declared 2001 ‘The Year of the Layoff.’”

Perkins was on Compaq’s board during the merger and then served on HP’s board. He offers the merger was “controversial” but was “unanimously approved by every member of the HP board and won approval from shareholders,” adding, “History proves Carly was right.”

“Critics often claim (she) was fired at HP because she was unsuccessful. As a member of the board, I can tell you this is not true.”

“In truth, it was the board I was a part of that was ineffective and dysfunctional. The HP board of directors included family members of the founders. Carly worked with the hand she was dealt as best as one could. While Carly fought to save the company and the employees within, some board members fought for their own power or advancement.

“You see, some board members wanted to micro-manage the company, hand picking friends and allies to run divisions. This is no way to run a global company, and Carly had the strength of character and courage of conviction to stand up to it and ultimately she lost her job because of it.

“While lesser leaders would have accepted offers of transition plans and graceful resignations, Carly would have none of that. Carly demanded to be fired. In order to restore peace to the board, I voted to fire her. That was a mistake.

“In the months and years after Carly left, the Board of Directors remained dysfunctional. The board members who plotted Carly’s ouster eventually resigned after an embarrassing investigation by Congress.”

Perkins resigned from HP’s board mid-May 2006. Patricia C. Dunn, board chair, helmed an invasive investigation into HP personnel that was “unethical and possibly illegal” in Perkins’ opinion.

His assessment is apparently quite accurate, as HP’s actions caused the Securities and Exchange Commission to begin an investigation. Perkins says the SEC and the “State of California have begun inquiries into the methods used by HP to investigate its directors.”

Lori Robertson’s May 2015 FactCheck.org article does not endorse Fiorina but does echo Perkins: “She was HP’s CEO during an overall tough period in the tech industry. Most companies laid off workers and lost stock market valuation.”

Ironically, in October 2011, CBS’s “60 Minutes” profiled Jeffery Immelt and his hailed success as General Electric’s CEO. CBS said: “But Immelt’s success is only partially built on American jobs. Half his workforce is overseas, and he is unapologetic for it.”

SEC filings for 2009 – eight years into Immelt’s leadership – GE had shipped 34,000 jobs overseas and added 25,000 more, resulting in 36,000 more foreign employees than the U.S. (Huffington Post October 2011).

That far exceeds one-half; moreover, from the finagling, “GE realized a $1.1 billion tax benefit in 2009.”

Ignoring the facts, President Obama made Immelt his Jobs Czar. The lauding and promotion was done in concert with Czar Immelt “moving its 115-year-old X-ray unit from Waukesha, Wis., to Beijing. It’s all in a day’s work for the U.S. jobs czar … whose day job is as a global CEO.”

Thankfully everyone who has been canned isn’t eternally vilified. Does professional baseball manager Billy Martin ring any bells?

Photo credit Gage Skidmore