Hewlett Packard Co.'s Chief Executive Mark Hurd had approved a sting operation on a reporter to investigate boardroom media leaks, The Washington Post reported, and embattled Chairman Patricia Dunn said she looked forward to setting the record straight soon.
The Post said in its Thursday edition that an e mail by a company lawyer to Dunn was the first document linking Hurd to the internal investigation which is now the subject of criminal probes. Private investigators impersonated people to gain the phone records of directors, HP employees and reporters, the company has acknowledged.
I spoke to Mark (Hurd) a few minutes ago and he fine with both the concept and the content, of the sting, senior counsel Kevin Hunsaker told Dunn in a February 23 e mail, according to the Post.
Dunn, who spearheaded the internal leak probe, was inducted Wednesday night into the Bay Area Council's Hall of Fame and made her first public comments since reports appeared this week that deepened the scandal. The issue erupted when HP disclosed its potentially illegal investigation on September 6.
Dunn announced this month that she would not serve as chairman beyond January, but would remain on the board.
Please be aware I am fully alive to the irony of being inducted into the Bay Area Council Business Hall of Fame, Dunn told members at the Bay Area trade group on Wednesday night. I look forward to the time in the near future when I can set the record straight.
HP said earlier that Hurd would hold a press conference in the Bay Area on Friday regarding the board leak investigation. HP spokesman Ryan Dononvan declined further comment, and the Post said HP also declined to comment on its report. It was not clear whether Dunn would be at the news conference.
With Dunn's installation into the Hall of Fame, she joins honorees including Larry Sonsini, Silicon Valley's most prominent attorney, who has agreed to testify regarding his role in the leak investigation at a U.S. House subcommittee hearing. She also joins HP founders David Hewlett and William Packard.
The Post report said Hunsaker, who led the investigation ordered by Dunn, and an HP colleague in Boston concocted a fictitious personal, Jacob, who would pose as a disgruntled HP executive to cultivate a reporter at technology news Web site Cnet.
The plan was to lure the reporter to open an e mail attachment with software that would let HP see where the e mail was forwarded, hoping it would pinpoint board member George Keyworth as the source. Keyworth has since resigned from the HP board.
California State Attorney General Bill Lockyer said earlier on Wednesday he does not know when his office would issue any indictments.
We're still in the middle of following the chains of communications, Lockyer said in a telephone interview. We don't yet know for sure which people (will be indicted) or how soon we'll complete the investigative work.
HP is under scrutiny by both state and U.S. prosecutors over whether the company used illegal tactics to obtain phone records of directors, at least two HP employees and journalists, as part of its inquiry to find the source of boardroom leaks to the media dating back to 2005.
The Wall Street Journal, citing internal e mails, reported on Wednesday that Dunn personally helped direct the leak investigation. The New York Times also reported on Wednesday that HP had studied the feasibility of placing spies in the newsrooms of two publications as part of the investigation.