RealTime IT News

Prosecutors Back Off Rush to Indict HP

UPDATED: California's Attorney General backed away from a timeline on filing charges in the fast-moving HP leak scandal.

"We won't be pinned down to a specific date," Tom Dresslar, spokesperson for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, said late today.

The caution followed Lockyer's more aggressive comments Tuesday during the PBS "Newshour with Jim Lehrer."

The announced exit of Patricia Dunn as HP's board chairwoman on Tuesday has not calmed a storm of controversy over an investigation the computer maker ordered to plug boardroom leaks to the media.

Instead of getting back to business, HP, or members of its board of directors, could be facing charges.

"We currently have sufficient evidence to indict people, both within Hewlett-Packard, as well as contractors on the outside," Lockyer told PBS's Jim Lehrer.

The comment expands on an earlier statement made by Lockyer that "crimes were committed."

HP is cooperating fully with the California investigation, spokesperson Ryan Donovan told internetnews.com.

The California Attorney General's office said last week it was "pursuing aggressively " the investigation, which could potentially result in fines or jail time, under new state legislation.

As previously reported, the California bill, approved and awaiting the governor's signature, would ban the use of pretexting.

A new wrinkle emerged in the case when Dunn spoke before HP employees Tuesday, seemingly enlarging the scope of the internal leak investigation.

Practices, such as pretexting, "were practiced on a number of individuals including certain directors, two employees and a number of individuals outside the company including journalists," according to a Sept. 12 transcript of a video presentation to HP employees obtained by internetnews.com.

Expressing regret for the way the investigation was conducted, Dunn said "I wish this had never happened."

Yesterday, HP announced Dunn would step down as chair in January to be replaced by CEO Mark Hurd.

"The company will work together to put these matters behind us so that we can fully resume our focus on the business," Hurd said in a statement.

Asked about employee morale in the midst of the daily revelations, the HP spokesperson declined comment.

However, Hurd yesterday told workers he apologized "that certain events have resulted in HP's reputation being called into question," according to transcripts of the presentation.

Hurd told employees "this is an anomaly and I commit to you that it will be fixed."

Lockyer is not alone in conducting investigations into HP's handling of the affair.

The U.S. Justice Department, Congress and the Federal Communications Commission have jumped into the fray.

If people inside HP are indicted, don't exect top executives to fall, says one analyst.

"If someone is most likely held accountable they will be in HP's legal department," Rob Enderle, Principal analyst at the Endlerle Group, said.

In a nod to the tumultuous past under CEO Carly Fiorina, "the board in some ways resembles the company months ago," Hurd told employees.

"It needs to be worked on."