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Verizon sues alleged HP fraudsters

Dunn whines

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The muck continues to thicken around HP's spy scandal. Verizon has filed a lawsuit against 20 unnamed data brokers, accusing them of helping out with the phone fraud used in HP's investigation. Separately, former HP Chairman Patricia Dunn has chastised HP for "inaccuracies" the company published in a recent regulatory filing.

Verizon's lawsuit landed in a New Jersey district court and charges 20 people with helping HP use fraud to obtain the phone logs of HP employees and directors and reporters and their family members. The company has complained that the data brokers fooled its customer services representatives into handing over the phone logs. HP has admitted that investigators obtained and used the Social Security numbers of probed individuals for such trickery.

The lawsuit is part of an ongoing campaign by Verizon against the fraud practice euphemistically called pretexting. The company's chairman Larry Babbio happens to sit on HP's board and was likely investigated as part of probe, according to testimony at today's Congressional hearings on the HP scandal.

Babbio has refused to comment on the HP probe or the pretexting. "Despite the precautions taken by Verizon Wireless to preserve the confidentiality of its customers' information, defendants used fraud, trickery and deceit to access confidential customer information," the company said in its legal filings.

Elsewhere in the HP mess, Dunn's attorney James Brosnahan released an open letter to HP, whining about misstatements in a 8-K filing that HP made yesterday. HP issued the filing to clear up some of the matters in the spy probe ahead of today's Congressional testimony and to announce that its chief counsel Ann Baskins had resigned.

Brosnahan's letter is little more than "he said, she said" fluffery. It points out that former CEO and Chairman Carly Fiorina started HP's first inquiry into media leaks and that Dunn did not really chip in until she became Chairman. HP's statement makes it sound like Dunn kicked off the investigation while Chairman.

In addition, the letter tries to distance Dunn from picking outside contractors for help in the probe. HP's letter claims that Dunn contacted Security Outsourcing Solutions for aid, while Dunn's lawyer says that Dunn asked HP CFO Bob Wayman for advice and then talked to HP Global Security. It was then Global Security that went on to hire SOS.

Dunn's lawyer also challenged HP's assertion that Dunn attended a June 15, 2005 meeting when the term "pretext" was mentioned and challenged the span of time in which HP investigators provided updates to Dunn on the probe.

Dunn has started trying her best to deflect blame for the debacle. ®

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