Sexual harassment seems to be on the rise along with an inability to keep expenses in order, experts said on Friday. After the market closed on Friday Hewlett-Packard announced that its chief executive, Mark Hurd, had resigned on Friday after an investigation into claims of sexual harassment. HP’s investigation found there was no violation of the company’s sexual harassment policy, but did find violations of its standards of business conduct. There were instances where the female contractor received compensation or reimbursement without a legitimate business purpose, HP said.
“There seems to be a trend,” said California lawyer Jason Oliver, who specializes in such cases. He referenced the July resignation of ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson, who resigned amid an internal investigation of alleged inappropriate behavior. “It’s a common pattern,” said Stanford University law professor Deborah Rhode. “What any of the briefest review of the most recent sexual scandals involving political, business and professional leaders suggests is that many men see as a perk of office the opportunities for sexual relationships and often the financial improprieties that accompany them.” She referenced South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford using taxpayer funds to visit his mistress in Argentina and former Tyco Chief Executive Dennis Kozlowski billing his company for a $6,000 shower curtain. Rhode, who is working on a book about leadership, said, “There is a well documented perception of entitlement among particularly male leaders that comes with that power and financial perks of office. You’ll see it less, almost never with women, because power is not viewed as especially attractive in a woman.”
Oliver, who has offices in San Francisco and Los Angeles, said he had noted an increase in the number and severity of sexual harassment cases since the economic downturn began. Rhode said that “economic recessions bring increased complaints of sexual assaults of all sorts. “… I haven’t seen a good statistical study on the recent downturn, but it would not be inconsistent with the general role of economic trends and sexual behavior.”