HP Execs Testify Before Congress

Former Chairwoman Patricia Dunn claims she was not responsible for the spying scandal; CEO Mark Hurd vows to "get to the bottom of this."

WASHINGTON—Throughout the monthlong controversy that has engulfed Hewlett-Packard over its investigation into news leaks, company executives have at once sounded contrite and dismayed at what happened, but have refused to take responsibility.

That trend continued here Sept. 28 during a daylong hearing before a House subcommittee looking into methods used by investigators hired by HP to find who was leaking sensitive company information to news media.

It was a sometimes frustrated Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations that grilled HP executives—in particular former board Chairman Patricia Dunn, who initiated the investigation in early 2005 and again earlier this year—and saw a total of 10 other company employees or people hired by HP refuse to testify, instead opting to plead Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here for more on the hearings.

"What were you thinking?" asked Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., a member of the parent House Committee on Energy and Commerce, who sat in on the hearing. "Where was management when this investigation was running amok? Where was the board of directors? The cure appears to have been far worse than the disease. Where were the lawyers? None of the lawyers stepped up to their responsibility."


Dunn, who resigned from the board of directors Sept. 22, testified that while she initiated the investigation, she was assured throughout by lawyers and the investigators that the methods used were legal. While dismayed at the results, Dunn refused to take the hit for them.

"I do not accept responsibility for what happened," Dunn said when asked if she felt she was culpable for the mess.

The scandal has continued to snowball since HP first filed documents with the federal Security and Exchange Commission early this month acknowledging that investigators hired by the company used a legally questionable method called pretexting to obtain the telephone records of board members and journalists. Pretexting involves pretending to be someone else to get the records.

/zimages/3/28571.gifThere are 10 lessons that should be learned from the HP scandal. Find out what they are here.

Since then, its been learned that investigators also followed board members and considered a plan to plant spies in newsrooms. The investigation has attracted the interest of several governmental bodies, including the SEC and the California attorney generals office.

The controversy has left several careers in its wake—the most recent being 24-year HP veteran Ann Baskins, the companys general counsel, who stepped down the morning of the hearing—and led to the resignations of three board members, including George Keyworth, who was discovered to have been the one leaking information to the press.

But while subcommittee members heard both Dunn and Mark Hurd, HP chairman, president and CEO, apologize for the scandal, both distanced themselves from knowledge of the investigative methods, and the panel was hindered in its attempts to glean details on what happened and who knew what. Among those who refused to testify were Baskins; Kevin Hunsaker, HPs former ethics officer; Anthony Gentilucci, ex-head of global security at the company; and Ronald DeLia of Security Outsourcing Solutions, the outside firm hired by HP to conduct the investigation.

Next Page: Skepticism over Dunns claims.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...