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HP investigation went further than previously thought

Reporters followed, say leaks

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Officials at Hewlett-Packard have been asked to testify to the House of Representatives which is investigating the company's media leak investigations. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and General Counsel Ann Baskins have been asked to testify.

The firm has already admitted to hiring private investigators who obtained phone records of board members and journalists without permission. It emerged at the weekend, though, that the action taken may have gone further and that one reporter may have been followed as part of the investigations. Leaked details of a secret internal investigation at HP suggest that the investigation was overseen by Dunn and two of the company's legal staff before it was handed to a network of private investigators. The investigation appears to have found that the illicit monitoring of phone records was a part of the operation from the start.

As the crisis surrounding the world's second largest PC maker escalates it has emerged that the firm's own press spokesman, Michael Moeller, was the subject of call record monitoring. "Mark [Hurd, CEO] and Patty have personally apologised to me. I think it speaks volumes that I'm still doing my job," Moeller told reporters in the US.

Dunn instigated the original hunt for the source of press leaks as early as January 2005 when information about the ousting of former chief executive Carly Fiorina emerged in press reports. Investigators were hired and the source of the leak was eventually identified.

When it emerged at a board meeting in spring that phone records had been accessed without the knowledge or permission of directors, board member Tom Perkins resigned immediately. The source of the leaks was George Keyworth, who has now resigned from the board.

The actions may lead to criminal charges against HP officials. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has said that he could decide as early as this week whether or not to press charges. He said last week that he had enough evidence to press criminal charges against those inside and outside the company.

The internal investigation found, according to leaks, that legal opinion was sought at one stage about the action, but that the opinion was given by a firm that shared an address with one of the investigator firms hired to carry out the surveillance.

The investigation is also said to have uncovered evidence that one of the reporters behind stories sourced from the leaks was followed by private detectives. Dawn Kawamoto of CNet News may have been followed in the course of the investigation, the internal report has found. It also said that detectives attempted to plant spy software on the computer of one of the nine journalists whose phone records were obtained.

See also: OUT-LAW News, 12/09/2006

Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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