"Aren’t directors supposed to do that?” Jay was the longest serving and most technically savvy person on the board, having had a hand in some of the most strategically important initiatives HP was undertaking. He had been asked to talk to the press on numerous occasions in the past by the company. I expressed dismay that we were, in effect, staging a trial. A valued director was at risk of being destroyed, exactly the scenario I had discussed with Pattie and had sought to avoid.
"But, after Enron—a company that behaved fraudulently, rather than stupidly—this is an age of corporate purity, purity at any price.
"The 'sin' of the leak became the issue, not the content or intent of the leak itself, or the method used to discover the source. Form over substance. Keyworth was a director who most recently had tried to help Pattie and, ironically, he had been most persuasive in talking me out of my effort, planned at the previous meeting, to tank her, send her to the corporate bench, the sidelines, so to speak.
"The HP boardroom is bland, monotone, void of any decorative interest or distinctive feature—not even photographs of the founders. Without further debate, I stood, closed my briefcase, and simply said, 'I resign,' just those words. I left that nondescript room with its majority of cipherlike directors, as I now saw them, for the last time.
"After I departed, Dr. Keyworth (who, along with Lucie, was one of the few admirable directors, in my opinion) was called back into the boardroom and asked to resign. He refused, rightly saying that the shareholders had made the election to the board seat and that the obligation to serve continued until those shareholders spoke otherwise.
"Now, at this remove, I am more confident than ever that subrosa surveillance of the board’s communications was illegal. My opinion has been ratified by independent advice, including a prominent professor of law at a famous university, and by subsequent felony guilty pleas from the investigators. Legal or not, I found it all unconscionable, and I couldn’t continue to serve on, or support, that board. Full stop. Today I can only paraphrase Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War hero, who said, 'I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.' I regret that I have but one HP board seat from which to resign. But at that, my last board meeting, the mouse certainly won the battle when the defeated cat resigned.
"Still, cats have nine lives. I tried to get the company, on a confidential basis, to correct the situation. The whole mess blew up in the press some months later. Keyworth had resigned and, of course, I was off the board, but leaks from directors continued to appear in print. Pattie took a major public relations hit for the spying on members of the board. She resigned from the company and was served with criminal indictments from the California attorney general. But by stepping down as chairman, she made it possible for Mark to take over that post, as I had planned. HP is back on track, and I have been hailed by many as a champion of corporate governance—what irony! It was never my intention be a whistle-blower. In fact, I was not.
"In the three months after resigning, I attempted to get Pattie, lawyer Ann Baskins, and finally the whole board to write the minutes of the meeting to chronicle accurately what had transpired. All of them refused; the minutes simply continued to read, 'After a discussion Mr. Perkins resigned.' "