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H-P's Hurd's Pay Troubling: Activist

What also raises eyebrows about these sharp executive raises, aside from it happening in the face of a sharp stock price drop for the year (and the general market uncertainty which remained at the end of the year), is that 2008 was also a year in which these same leaders imposed mandatory 10% pay cuts for other executives and 5% cuts for the rest of H-P's workforce. It hardly seems like this select group is shouldering the pain like the rest of the employees.

At Dell (DELL), the magnitude and the general direction of total compensation were far different than H-P for 2008. Michael Dell's total comp dropped 9% in 2008 from the previous year to $2 million. Other senior executives on Dell's management team decreased or modestly increased to an average total compensation for the year of $9.5 million -- or less than half of what their H-P counter-parts took home for the year.

But what should be most rankling to H-P shareholders -- and a very good reason to avoid the stock in the near term, as it speaks to the values by which this board and management team operate -- are the perks these executives are asking for and receiving from the board.

For example, last year H-P shareholders paid $7,472 for travel expenses related to Mark Hurd's family accompanying him to business meetings. Expenses for Hurd's security service roughly doubled to $256,000. Shareholders paid $500,000 combined in 2007 and 2008 for legal fees associated with bringing over CIO Randy Mott from arch-rival Dell. All senior executives availed themselves of about $18,000 worth of financial advice in 2008 (about four times the amount Dell senior executives received that same year).
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