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Fired Hewlett-Packard executive claims he was victim of pretexting

Fired Hewlett-Packard executive claims he was victim of pretexting

A former Hewlett-Packard Co. executive who was fired after being accused of stealing trade secrets claims the company tried to snoop on his private phone records using the same shady surveillance tactics employed in HP's boardroom spying probe.
Karl Kamb, who served as vice president of business development until his ouster in 2005, alleged in a federal lawsuit filed last week in Texas that investigators working for HP used his Social Security number to trick two telephone companies into divulging his detailed call logs _ an illegal practice known as "pretexting."
Kamb claims HP was looking for evidence that he pocketed payments destined for a business intelligence source in Japan. The source was former Dell Inc. executive Katsumi Iizuka, who was recruited and hired by Kamb in 2002 to dig up information on Dell's anticipated printer-business launch.
"Because of its own misguided intelligence efforts, HP erroneously assumed that Kamb misappropriated those funds," the lawsuit says. "As a result, HP engaged in illegal acts to obtain Kamb's private information, it converted his personal property, and it terminated Kamb's employment without payment of his promised severance benefits."
Iizuka, who once ran Dell's Asia-Pacific operations but left the company in 1995, delivered key details to HP about Dell's plans, including product configurations and specifications, target costs and pricing estimates, and proposed manufacturers and suppliers, according to the lawsuit.
Kamb came under scrutiny in 2005 when his ex-wife subpoenaed HP during messy divorce litigation, asking for information on Kamb's side project _ a flat-screen television company that competed with the technology giant. HP said that was the first it heard about the venture, and the company initiated an investigation.
HP said it uncovered evidence that Kamb and others funneled company secrets to the side project, causing HP to incur damages that may exceed $100 million (euro76.89 million).
HP filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas later that year alleging misappropriation of trade secrets and fraud against Kamb, four other former HP employees and two outside contractors, including Iizuka.
Kamb filed his counterclaim Friday in the same court, claiming HP breached its employment contract with him and invaded his privacy by engaging in pretexting.
HP became the center of a national scandal last year when it was revealed that private investigators who were hired to ferret out the source of boardroom leaks to the media accessed private phone records of board members, employees and journalists, allegedly by pretexting. Former Chairwoman Patricia Dunn, former ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker and three outside investigators face felony charges in the case.
HP said Wednesday that Kamb's counterclaim is without merit and an attempt to delay the litigation of the original case.
"The claim that pretexting was involved in this investigation is, to the best of our knowledge, patently untrue," the Palo Alto, California-based company said in a statement. "Furthermore, as we've said in the past, HP strongly rejects such methods of investigation and has said that those methods will not again be employed on behalf of the company."
However, when Hunsaker was interviewed by lawyers hired by HP to investigate the boardroom spying probe, he said he had learned that investigators first used pretexting in July 2005 to dig up phone records on a subject who was "going through a messy divorce," according to a document filed with Kamb's countersuit.
Round Rock, Texas-based Dell declined to comment on the matter, saying only that the company "behaves ethically in every interaction and every aspect of how we do business" and that Iizuka left the company eight years before Dell entered the printer business in Japan.
Mark Josephs, attorney for both Kamb and Iizuka, did not return calls from The Associated Press.


Updated : 2021-04-15 08:14 GMT+08:00