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Pretexting not a way of life at HP - official

Or an investigative technique - oh, wait

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HP has entered the denial phase in its legal battle with former executive Karl Kamb. The company this week denied claims made by Kamb that it used pre-texting techniques during an internal investigation into the executive's side business selling flat panel TVs. Moreover, HP whacked back at Kamb, saying pre-texting was not a way of life at the company.

In a lawsuit against HP, Kamb employed the "I learned it by watching you" defense where he alleged that HP made it near impossible for employees to demonstrate "loyalty" or a "personal commitment to the company" because HP violated its own ethics policies by spying on board members, executives and other employees during its now infamous leak investigation. How could Kamb - accused by HP of using company funds, time, people and intellectual property to form a consumer electronics start-up - be chastised by HP for failing to live up to company standards when the company had lost all its standards?

Kamb added to this rhetoric by claiming flat out that he was "a victim of HP's use of pretexting."

Not so fast, says HP.

"HP denies that the so-called 'pretexting' alleged by Kamb in the counterclaim occurred," the company wrote in a legal filing made this week. "HP denies that any so-called 'pretexting' activities were part of a widespread patter or practice at HP."

Just to emphasize the latter point, HP added the following in the same filing: "HP denies that so-called 'pretexting' activities are part of HP's regular way of doing business, that Mark Hurd approved of any such activities or that there remains a threat that HP would engage in any such activity."

And how could CEO Hurd approve of the activities? He doesn't read his spy memos.

HP first learned of Kamb's consumer electronics ambitions when his wife instigated divorce proceedings. Her lawyers started asking some odd questions about byd:sign Inc. - Kamb's flat panel TV start-up. HP did business with byd:sign Inc. but claims to have had no knowledge about Kamb's involvement with the company, which he worked for while working at HP on, er, flat panel TVs, according to HP's original lawsuit.

Once HP became curious about byd:sign Inc., it launched an investigation into Kamb, which included sending investigators to his Las Vegas residence.

Around the same time, Kamb claims to have received a call from a T-Mobile worker who asked for his PIN number. Kamb refused to provide the information and then called T-Mobile to check on the incident. According to Kamb, T-Mobile denied placing any such call, making the former HP Japan executive think someone was trying to pre-text him.

Then, during HP's spy scandal lawsuit, Kamb noticed a curious document from HP.

One of HP's lawyers wrote, "Hunsaker (HP lawyer Kevin Hunsaker) first learned that HP had used pretexting to obtain phone records in July 2005 in connection with an unrelated HP investigation. One of the subjects of that investigation was going through a messy divorce, and his attorney contacted Hunsaker claiming that HP had tried to change his PIN to access his voicemail. Hunsaker's team told him they had not altered the subject's PIN or voicemail, but had used pretexting to obtain phone information about the subject."

Apparently this was just some misunderstanding on the part of Hunsaker or HP's lawyers because "HP denies that Hunsaker ever acknowledged that HP had engaged in so-called 'pretexting' against Kamb".

While HP has moved to put many of the documents related to this lawsuit under seal, we happen to have a copies of the original material and give you the "Messy Memo" here. ®

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