Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairman Patricia Dunn on Friday defended her role in an inquiry into a boardroom leak that has led to a California state investigation, and said she has no plans to resign unless asked by the board.
Dunn said she did not know private investigators hired by the computer maker had used questionable tactics to access private phone records of board directors and journalists.
Our board certainly had no idea of the privacy breaches, Dunn said in an interview on Friday, adding, This problem won't recur.
California's attorney general is investigating the matter and said it could result in criminal liability for identity theft and illegally accessing database information.
On Friday a lawyer for a former HP director said the director has demanded a federal investigation and, according to a source familiar with the matter, the Federal Communications Commission has asked AT&T Inc. for information on its role.
Wall Street analysts have said Dunn's job may be in jeopardy if HP is to clear the air.
The FCC's letter to AT&T Inc. asked about what role the phone company may have played in the HP board investigation, the source familiar with the matter said on Friday.
An AT&T spokesman did not confirm that the company had received the FCC letter.
AT&T is committed to both protecting the privacy of our customers and to weeding out those who fraudulently obtain access to customer information, the spokesman, Michael Balmoris, said.
Dunn has come under fire for her handling of investigations dating back to 2005, when the board tried to find the source of leaks to the media in the run-up to the ousting of former Chairman and Chief Executive Carly Fiorina in February 2005.
Outside investigators hired by HP had obtained the phone records of board directors and nine journalists by giving phone companies fake identities, Dunn and HP said.
California's attorney general is examining whether HP's probe was illegal, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also has asked HP for information.
On Friday, a lawyer for Thomas Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who quit HP's board in May in protest over the leak investigation, said his client had asked federal prosecutors to review the HP probe.
The lawyer, Viet Dinh, said Perkins had made criminal referrals to the U.S. Attorney for Northern California, Kevin Ryan, and Michael Garcia, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Perkins also made enforcement referrals to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission.
We have made criminal referrals and our understanding is that they are being investigated and being handled in the normal course, Dinh told Reuters. We cannot confirm any specific criminal investigations that they may be undertaking.
HP spokesman Ryan Donovan said HP has not been subpoenaed in the state attorney general's investigation.
Dunn said one of her top priorities when she became chairman following the ousting of Fiorina was to ferret out the source of board leaks. Coming to grips with the leaks was one of my top priorities, she said.
HP said on Wednesday director George Keyworth was the source of leaks to the media of specific details about the company's strategy and boardroom deliberations.
This was a person who had been a habitual long-term leaker, Dunn said of Keyworth.
The board at its May 18 meeting asked Keyworth to resign, but he refused, HP said in a regulatory filing on Wednesday. Keyworth was not immediately available for comment on Friday.
HP said four of the nine reporters whose records were obtained by the investigators were John Markoff of The New York Times, Dawn Kawamoto and Tom Krazit of CNET Networks Inc.'s News.com, and Pui-Wing Tam of Dow Jones & Co. Inc.'s The Wall Street Journal.
We need to learn more about what was obtained, how it was obtained and by whom, said New York Times spokeswoman Abbe Serphos. If, as it appears, the rights of any of our reporters were violated, we will pursue whatever legal recourse is available to us.
CNET said it was seeking a full accounting of all the actions taken from HP. Dow Jones declined comment.
Dinh, a former U.S. assistant attorney general who is one of the authors of the U.S. Patriot Act, also said he expected civil lawsuits against HP from those whose privacy may have been invaded.
In addition to potential criminal liability there are civil penalties involved for a breach of a person's dignity and privacy by illegally accessing their private records, he told Reuters. I trust that all persons and entities who have been so violated will pursue their remedies under the law.
(Additional reporting by Philipp Gollner and Adam Tanner in San Francisco, Robert MacMillan in New York and Jeremy Pelofsky in Washington)