U.S. lawmakers on Thursday plan to shine a spotlight on Hewlett-Packard Co.'s snooping into the telephone records of some board members and journalists, a practice that Congress may soon ban.
HP Chief Executive Mark Hurd and former chairman Patricia Dunn are due to recount their roles in the probe to a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing that begins at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT).
The computer and printer manufacturer has admitted its investigators impersonated company board members, employees and journalists to get their telephone records as part of an effort to learn the source of the leaks of secret board discussions.
Dunn said in written testimony released on Wednesday that she was assured by others that the practices used were legal and believed the leak investigation, started in 2005, had been authorized by Bob Wayman, chief financial officer and acting chief executive at the time.
An HP spokesman denied Wayman's involvement. Dunn said Wayman had referred her to the head of HP global security who in turn led her to private investigator Ronald DeLia of Security Outsourcing Solutions Inc.
As a matter of course, I asked Mr. DeLia at every point of contact for his representation that everything being done was proper, legal and fully in compliance with HP's normal practices, said Dunn, who resigned last week.
DeLia is expected to invoke his right not to testify at the hearing for fear of incriminating himself, congressional aides have said. Others expected to exercise that right are Anthony Gentilucci, former head of global investigations for HP and Cassandra Selvage of Eye in the Sky Investigations.
HP is under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, California's attorney general and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
PRESSURE TO BAN PRETEXTING
Hurd said in his written testimony that he attended parts of meetings where the investigation was discussed and approved the content of an e-mail with false information to be sent to a reporter to try to learn the source of leaks.
HP's investigation went so far as to furtively track board members and journalists, and at one point investigators may have rummaged through individuals' garbage, a law firm hired by the company to review the probe has said.
The leaks were wrong and we had an obligation to our employees and shareholders to resolve the problem, Hurd said. However, two wrongs do not make a right.
Under Hurd, who joined HP in April 2005, the company has enjoyed a rebound in its performance. HP shares are up 23 percent since the start of the year.
The practice of impersonating someone to obtain records is also known as pretexting.
Most of what they did under current law is not directly illegal, Republican Rep. Joe Barton, chairman of the full Energy and Commerce Committee, told Reuters earlier this week. It's immoral, it's unethical, but there is not a federal or state statute that criminalizes or makes illegal the act of pretexting.
The House of Representatives and Senate are bickering over whether to pass a narrow bill focusing on criminal penalties for obtaining or selling telephone records surreptitiously, or a broader measure that orders more safeguards for such data.
Eight individuals were subpoenaed to testify at Thursday's hearing, including several investigators and two employees who have since left the computer company: Gentilucci and Kevin Hunsaker, formerly an HP ethics officer.
I want to know how pervasive this type of really sleazy investigative technique is throughout corporate America, said Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat on the subcommittee.
(Additional reporting by Duncan Martell in San Francisco)