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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 - Get Report), 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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