Patricia Dunn, who was chairwoman of Hewlett-Packard when the board of directors was hit with accusations of spying on not only directors but also journalists in an effort to curtail leaks to the media, has died following a battle with ovarian cancer. She was 58.
Dunn joined HP’s board of directors in 1998, and took over as chairwoman seven years later following the resignation of HP CEO Carly Fiorina in 2005. A year later, the board of directors was embroiled in controversy when it was discovered that, in hopes of shutting leaks of information to the media, HP had hired private investigators who used a method called pretexting designed to find the source of the leaks.
The goal of the internal investigation was to find who from the board was talking to the media about the details of closed directors meetings. Pretexting is a method by which a person pretends to be the owner of a cell phone in order to obtain billing records from that cell phone. As the scandal unfolded, it was determined that not only had this illegal method been used to obtain the records from board members, but also from some reporters with The Wall Street Journal, CNET and BusinessWeek, to whom most of the information was leaked.
The revelation kicked up a storm of controversy, and led to criminal charges against Dunn and others, as well as congressional hearings. It also led to her resignation from the board in 2006, as well as the resignation of other directors, including George Keyworth II, a longtime member who eventually was found to have been the source of the media leaks that lead to the internal investigation.
Dunn was replaced as chair by Mark Hurd, who had taken over as CEO following Fiorina’s resignation
At the time of her resignation, Dunn admitted in a statement that “inappropriate” investigative techniques had been used.
“The recent events that have taken place follow an important investigation that was required after the board sought to resolve the persistent disclosure of confidential information from within its ranks,” Dunn said in the statement. “Unfortunately, the investigation, which was conducted with third parties, included certain inappropriate techniques.”
HP issued a brief statement on Dunn’s death: “Pattie Dunn worked tirelessly for the good of HP. We are saddened by the news of her passing, and our thoughts go out to her family on their loss.”