Feds, House Now Want HP Records

This scandal has legs.

While Hewlett-Packard continued an emergency board meeting today to discuss how to deal with its “pre-texting” scandal, the feds, and U.S. House members picked up their interest in the imbroglio involving how HP went about a media leak investigation.

The U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee announced it wants HP to turn over records and information related to acquisition of private phone records (i.e. pretexting, or as the Committee’s statement puts it, “the use of lies and deception to gain access to information that is not publicly available and without the victim’s consent).”

In its letter to HP, the House committee said it would be contacting the company for an interview related to the boardroom scandal. The committee also asked for several specific items including:

The name of the firm that did the pretexting and any related contracts; the identity of any third parties hired by the investigators; all individuals targeted in the investigation; who at HP knew about the investigation; and copies of all reports that came from the investigation.

Last week HP apologized for the use of pretexting by investigators trying to find out which of its board members was leaking confidential information to the press.

HP’s chairman, Patricia Dunn, ordered the investigation, but said she had no knowledge of and would not have condoned the use of pretexting by outside investigators to poor over the phone records of HP  directors and nine technology journalists.

But any thought that Dunn’s apology or HP’s disavowal of pretexting would tamp the scandals’ growth, died today.

HP also confirmed in an SEC filing that the U.S. Attorney’s office for Northern California is requesting information about the processes the company used in its investigation of leaks. This follows a similar request by California’s Attorney General.

In the filing HP said it is “cooperating fully with these inquiries.”

Separately, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it’s launching a formal investigation into AT&T’s role in disclosing the personal telephone records of HP board members and selected journalists to HP private investigators.

HP directors met yesterday to discuss its next move, but came to no conclusion. The board was slated to meet again late Monday.

One of the issues observers say is likely to be discussed, is whether Dunn should be asked to resign. Dunn has not offered to resign to, rightly or wrongly, take the blame; but she has stated she would resign if the Board asks her to.

“It’s conceivable Patty Dunn would be asked to leave because the company needs a fall guy,” said analyst Cindy Shaw, a former HP employee.

“If that happens, I would view it as her resigning her position for the good of the company and its shareholders,” Shaw told internetnews.com. “I think any breaches of trust were initiated by board members who leaked information.”

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