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Boardroom Insights

Michael Holston, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Hewlett-Packard

November 20, 2009

Michel Holston, executive vice president and general counsel for Hewlett-Packard, spoke Nov. 20, 2009, in the Jordan Auditorium at the Mendoza College of Business. 

Insight:  “During your career, wherever you go, you will land where there are people you know from the past. While you are in school, and with each job you take, you are shaping your reputation.” 

  • I earned a degree in mechanical engineering, but realized I didn’t want to be an engineer. I found that law was something I liked and was good at. It’s important to find what you feel passionate about. I have seen that people who do what they really like are the most successful people. 
  • There is a lot of talk right now about corporations doing bad things and that we need more prosecutors going after major companies. We need to keep it in balance. There are bad organizations, but there are a lot of good organizations doing good things. 
  • I am secretary of our board of directors. I have learned that a board is like a sports team: you really need different people to play different roles. We have sitting CEOs and ex-CEOs to bring their experience, but we also have a Netscape founder who can tell us where the world is going. 
  • As head of the ethics and compliance team, I oversee writing and enforcement our standards of business conduct. It is hard when one of your best salespersons did something he wasn’t supposed to do, and you have to fire him. You have to have the discipline and the backbone and the culture to say, “That’s not what we’re going to tolerate.”


As executive vice president and general counsel for Hewlett-Packard, Michael Holston manages the company’s global legal function as well as the areas of compliance, ethics, privacy and government affairs. Before joining Hewlett-Packard in 2007, Holston was a partner at Morgan Lewis, focusing on complex civil litigation and white-collar criminal defense litigation. He is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and served as a prosecutor in the criminal division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers. He holds a J.D. degree from Villanova University and a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Notre Dame.

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