The letter that took down Mark Hurd comes closer to the surface

November 5, 2010: 5:33 PM ET

Gloria Allred and Jodie Fisher

An unrelated party says it's got the goods -- and is ready to share.

One of the remaining mysteries of the curious case of Mark Hurd's resignation from Hewlett-Packard is just what's inside the accusatory letter camera-ready attorney Gloria Allred sent to Hurd on June 29. Everyone who's anyone has been trying to read the letter, but no one has published its exact contents.

For a while, only  a handful of people had seen the letter: members of the HP board of directors, their advisers and people advising Hurd himself. Allred, who has rejected numerous interview requests, and her client, Jodie Fisher, have been two of the most disciplined central players involved in this story. It makes sense that Allred would remain mum. Negotiations with future targets are predicated on the notion that she abides by settlement agreements. And Fisher's settlement with Hurd clearly provided for Allred and Fisher keeping their traps shut.

Now there's a new twist in the fate of this famous and so-far-unseen-by-the-public document.

A plaintiff-suit firm in San Diego, Robbins Umeda, has a copy of the letter, which it received from HP as part of what it calls the "shareholder inspection process." The firm is all set to disseminate the letter, ostensibly in the name of fully informing HP shareholders and says that there's nothing confidential about it. One party in the case agrees: HP. The person slowing down its release is Mark Hurd's lawyer.So, presumably because Robbins Umeda doesn't want to get wrapped on the knuckles by some judge down the road, it is giving Hurd time to argue -- potentially in court -- why the letter should remain confidential.

Here is the text of a statement Marc Umeda made to me by email a week ago:

Our client, a shareholder of HP, obtained the Allred letter from HP through the shareholder inspection process.  In producing the document, HP informed us that it does not believe the letter is confidential.  After review, we too believe that the Allred letter is not confidential and all HP shareholders and the investing public should know the contents of the Allred letter and the circumstances surrounding Mr. Hurd's departure from HP.  Mr. Hurd's counsel, on the other hand, has asserted that the Allred letter is confidential and should not be disclosed to the public.  Before we make any final decisions concerning disclosure of the letter, we have provided Hurd's counsel a limited opportunity to convince us of their legal positions or to file an action against HP seeking to protect the document as confidential.  Our ultimate decision will turn on these discussions and our determination of the best interests of our shareholder client and HP.

In followup conversations, a spokeswoman for Robbins Umeda says the firm can't yet say how long it will take to decide whether or not to disclose the letter.

As of now, neither HP nor Amy Wintersheimer Findley, Hurd's lawyer, has responded to comment on the status of the letter.

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Adam Lashinsky
Adam Lashinsky
Senior Editor at Large, Fortune

Adam Lashinsky is a San Francisco-based editor-at-large for FORTUNE, covering Wall Street and Silicon Valley. Lashinsky joined FORTUNE in 2001, after two years as a contributing columnist. Prior to joining FORTUNE, Lashinsky covered Silicon Valley for TheStreet.com and The San Jose Mercury News. A Chicago native, Lashinsky holds a B.A. in history and political science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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