Smooth sailing at HP shareholder meeting

In contrast to last month's standing-room-only vote on the Compaq deal, the annual meeting of HP shareholders turns out to be a sedate affair.

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CUPERTINO, Calif.--In contrast to last month's standing-room-only shareholder vote on the Compaq Computer acquisition, Friday's annual meeting of Hewlett-Packard shareholders was a sedate affair.

See special coverage: A Fight to the Finish Only seven rows of the massive Flint Center here were filled, with about 200 shareholders, many of them retirees, in attendance.

HP CEO Carly Fiorina took the opportunity to express hope that the merger would be completed soon.

"We are continuing to work toward a May 7 launch of the new HP," Fiorina said.

Fiorina said HP believes it made its case in the Delaware trial that wrapped up Thursday and is awaiting a judge's ruling. "We clearly believe the plaintiffs failed to prove their claim."

However, in the question-and-answer session, Fiorina acknowledged that the court case had hurt HP's reputation.

"I think even the appearance of impropriety, as you suggest, is damaging to the brand," Fiorina said in response to a shareholder's question.

In the formal business of the meeting, HP shareholders approved a slate of directors that includes Fiorina and seven other current HP directors, but not Walter Hewlett.

In the Q&A session, Fiorina was challenged on the decision not to renominate Walter Hewlett. Shareholder Andy Black said, "Going forward, I think dissent should be included rather than excluded."

And investor Bob Stewart, who is retired and lives in Los Gatos, Calif., got enthusiastic applause when he brought up the fact that the ballots didn't allow for a write-in vote for Hewlett.

"That's atrocious," Stewart said. "I think I will (withhold my vote) for every one of the directors listed." Stewart added that next year he might submit a shareholder proposal to modify HP's bylaws to allow write-in candidates.

Fiorina agreed that dissent plays an important role in decision making but said, "There is a difference between debate and dissension and becoming an adversary and suing the company."

Of the 1.59 billion shares voted at the meeting, 1.4 billion went toward approving the slate of directors and 185 million were withheld.

In other business, investors defeated two shareholder proposals: one that called on the company to adopt specific standards governing the treatment of its workers in China, the other to produce a report on how to better enable the recycling of the company's products.

News.com's Dawn Kawamoto contributed to this report.