The actress who brought down a Wall Street star

Hewlett-Packard boss falls victim to a sex-and-expenses scandal – and sees $10bn wiped off the value of his company
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The Independent Online

With her model good looks and a blonde-bombshell style that leaves people stunned when she admits to being 50 years old, Jodie Fisher looks every inch the Hollywood leading lady. But through two decades of trying – half a lifetime of bit-parts, reality TV try-outs and an early career detour into soft core pornography – she has never generated as many column inches or as much on-camera time as she has in the past three days.

But now everything is different, as Ms Fisher has landed the unexpected role of femme fatale in a drama that has captivated an unexpected audience, an audience not in Tinseltown but rather on Wall Street and in the Silicon Valley home of the technology industry.

It is a drama that has led to the downfall of one of the best-respected executives in the computer business, the millionaire boss of Hewlett-Packard, Mark Hurd, in a sex-and-expenses scandal that wiped $10bn (£6.3bn) from the stock market value of the company.

Ms Fisher has now come forward to say she is the woman who accused the married father-of-two of sexual harassment, after he wined and dined her repeatedly on the company's expenses, but she says she is shocked as anyone at his resignation. "I was surprised and saddened that Mark Hurd lost his job over this. That was never my intention."

With the tech industry agog, it was quickly clear why Ms Fisher proved so alluring. Her film credits include soft-core porn titles such as Intimate Obsession and Body of Influence 2, but most recently she was on primetime NBC as a self-described "cougar"attempting to win the affections of Mark Philipoussis, the tennis ace they nicknamed the Scud for his strong serve. The show, Age of Love, was not a hit – and Ms Fisher was first to be ejected – but far from Hollywood, the actress found other avenues for her talents.

She was hired by Mr Hurd to act as a "corporate hostess" to schmooze with clients at special HP events. When the sexual harassment claim landed with the board, its investigation quickly discovered that the married father of two had developed an inappropriately close relationship with the contractor and – worse – discovered that he had been misrepresenting his dinners with her on his expenses claims.

The board told him he had to go, and on Friday night, in a public statement long on regret and short on details, he shocked HP shareholders with a resignation statement that sheepishly admitted to "instances in which I did not live up to the standards and principles of trust, respect and integrity that I have espoused at HP".

That has sparked a firestorm of speculation and spinning that only intensified when Ms Fisher went public on Sunday, through her lawyer, the Hollywood powerbroker Gloria Allred, who just last year had represented two of the women accused of having affairs with golfer Tiger Woods.

Ms Allred said her client had settled the sexual harassment claims privately, without giving details, and denied the relationship had ever been sexual.

"I first met Mark in 2007 when I interviewed for a contractor job at the company," Ms Fisher said. "At HP, I was under contract to work at high-level customer and executive summit events held around the country and abroad. I prepared for those events, worked very hard and enjoyed working for HP."

For Ms Allred, the revelations have been an opportunity to highlight her client's eclectic career. "Ms Fisher is a single mom focused on raising her young son. She has a degree in Political Science and was recently the vice- president of a commercial real estate company. She formerly worked on the House Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control. She has also been a successful salesperson for a Fortune 500 company and has been in various television shows and films, some of which were R-rated when she was in her 30's."

For Mr Hurd, he walks away from HP with a $28m pay-off from one of the best-paying jobs in the industry, but with his reputation in tatters. "This is a painful decision for me to make after five years at HP, but I believe it would be difficult for me to continue as an effective leader at HP and I believe this is the only decision the board and I could make at this time," he said on Friday.

Hurd had built a reputation as a details man who had turned HP around to win the title of best-selling computer maker on the planet in five years at the helm. Investors, fretting about his loss, sent HP shares down 10 per cent in the aftermath of his resignation.

For Ms Fisher, at 50, her career may suddenly only be beginning. Now, though, she is refusing to add any more comment, except this: "I wish Mark, his family and HP the best."