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Ousted HP chairwoman appears in court over boardroom spying probe

Ousted HP chairwoman appears in court over boardroom spying probe

Ousted Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn surrendered to authorities a day after she and four others were charged in HP's ill-fated investigation to ferret out the source of boardroom leaks.
Dunn, 53, who initiated the probe that has shaken Silicon Valley's largest and oldest technology company, made a brief appearance in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Thursday to sign a promise to return on Nov. 17 for her arraignment.
She declined an onlooker's request for an autograph as she exited the courthouse and hopped into a chauffeur-driven sedan for the short trip to the county sheriff's office, where she was fingerprinted, photographed, booked and released.
Neither Dunn nor an attorney representing her, S. Raj Chatterjee, would comment Thursday afternoon.
But in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" to be broadcast Sunday, Dunn defended the investigation of directors and members of the media, saying she initiated the probe "at the request of this board to solve a serious problem."
"Investigations, by their nature, are intrusive," Dunn said, according to excerpts released by the network on Thursday. "If you think that Hewlett-Packard is the only company that has an investigations force _ which by the way, is peopled mostly with former law enforcement officers that do all kinds of private detective work, monitoring, posing as other people in order to solve problems to protect shareholder value _ you're being naive."
She was charged Wednesday along with former HP chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker and three investigators _ Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante and Bryan Wagner.
Hunsaker was booked and released Thursday morning, and his arraignment was scheduled for Dec. 6, his legal team said.
The five each face four felony counts: use of false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorized access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Each charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 (euro7,900) and three years in prison.
HP chief executive Mark Hurd is not among those named in the complaint, nor was HP's former General Counsel Ann Baskins, who had some oversight over the probe.
HP's investigation, which took place earlier this year and in 2005, erupted into a national scandal last month after HP disclosed that detectives it hired had obtained the private phone records of directors, employees and journalists in HP's effort to ferret out the source of media leaks.
Using a shady tactic known as "pretexting," the detectives impersonated people and fooled telephone companies into divulging their detailed call logs.
At a news conference Wednesday, California Attorney General Bill Lockyer said his investigation of the company, long revered for its ethics and professionalism, was not yet complete and hinted more charges could be ahead.
Arrest warrants were issued and a prosecution spokesman said Thursday that attorneys for all the defendants except DePante had been contacted and their clients agreed to voluntarily surrender.
Hunsaker's lead lawyer, Michael Pancer, reiterated Thursday that his client had been assured of the legality of the tactics and was fired from HP when he refused to resign.
"At no time did he _ or would he _ ever authorize or engage in any activity that he thought was illegal," Pancer said in a statement.
The telephone rang unanswered Thursday morning at DePante's office in Melbourne, Florida. No listed home number for him could be located. Wagner did not immediately return a call.
DeLia had previously asserted his innocence in a statement he read to The Associated Press, but has declined to elaborate or take questions.
After the charges were filed, HP said that it is cooperating with Lockyer as well as federal authorities who are also exploring possible criminal charges. The Palo Alto-based company declined further comment.
In all, the personal data of more than 24 people were compromised, including one instance in January when an investigator changed the password for a reporter's cell phone and viewed her call log for nine minutes, according to the criminal complaint.
Dunn, who was infuriated by a leak about a private board retreat, ordered the investigation but said she didn't know the detectives used such extreme measures. She resigned from the board last month.
Hunsaker oversaw the probe, and left the company on Sept. 26.
DeLia runs a Boston-area detective firm called Security Outsourcing Solutions, a longtime HP contractor commissioned to conduct the leak probe.
DeLia in turn hired DePante's company to gather information, and Wagner was hired to obtain the private phone records. According to the complaint, Wagner acknowledged destroying the computer linking him to the HP probe "because it had incriminating evidence on it and he would not assist in locating it."
Pretexting will become a criminal offense in California when a new law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger takes effect Jan. 1. Violators will be punished by $2,500 (euro2,000) in fines and up to a year in jail, though the law will not retroactively apply to the HP investigation.


Updated : 2021-07-25 08:19 GMT+08:00