Pretexted Reporters to Pen New Introduction to Fifth Printing of 'The HP Way'
“Colossally stupid.” That’s what former California Attorney General Bill Lockyer once said of Hewlett-Packard’s Cold War-style board-leak investigation. And it’s as apt a description today as it was when he first uttered it last September. Because though nearly a year has passed, the scandal over the company’s ill-starred counterintelligence operation still hasn’t subsided.
Yesterday a group of journalists whose personal phone records were scrutinized by investigators working for H-P as part of the investigation sued the company, its former chairwoman Patricia Dunn, and former ethics chief Kevin Hunsaker. Bringing suit against the company in separate legal filings were CNET reporters Dawn Kawamoto, Stephen Shankland and Thomas Krazit, and Associated Press reporter Rachel Konrad. Each seeks damages for “illegal and reprehensible conduct” and invasion of privacy. “Defendants conspired to and intentionally intruded into the plaintiffs solitude and private affairs,” the reporters allege, claiming a company hired by H-P used a controversial technique called “pretexting” to obtain their personal phone records. Pretexting is an illegal method of obtaining personal records through misrepresentation of someone’s identity.
HP, for its part, reiterated its regret over the affair, noting it had apologized to the people affected. “As we have said since last fall, H-P regrets these events, and we have apologized individually to those who were affected,” said Ryan Donovan, an H-P spokesman. “In an attempt to resolve this matter short of litigation, H-P made a substantial settlement offer to the reporters, their family members and a charity of their choice. Unfortunately, rather than respond to the offer, they have decided to sue. HP is disappointed by their decision and will defend itself.”
A tough break for H-P, which has suffered untold damage to its once storied reputation, sadly now just a storybook legend penned by H-P founders Bill Hewlett and David Packard.