HP needs to act quickly

Why is Hewlett-Packard taking so long to get rid of board chair Patricia Dunn? Does she have incriminating information about other board members, or a secret underground bunker where she is holding their loved ones for ransom? I would have thought that HP would want to get this matter behind them as quickly as possible, but it seems that they are determined to drag it out. Instead of coming to some kind of conclusion on Friday, or even Sunday, they put it off until today (with no reasons given), and there is no guarantee that there will be any kind of resolution today either.

It appears that Dunn is trying to argue she didn’t know that the investigators she hired — apparently without the rest of the board’s knowledge — were using “pretexting” and other fraudulent means to gain access to the phone records not just of HP board members, but of journalists as well. She also appears to be trying to make dissident board member Tom Perkins out to be part of the plot, according to a piece in the San Jose Merc, which my friend Rob Hyndman describes as the “cookie” jar approach.

This is sounding more and more like HP’s version of the Watergate break-ins, with Dunn playing the role of Richard Nixon. All we need is some audio tape of her talking with the “plumbers” to be released, with long gaps at crucial points in the discussion. Matt Marshall at VentureBeat has more details.

As far as HP is concerned, whether Ms. Dunn knew any of these details is irrelevant. She was in charge of a secret and quasi-legal investigation into the activities of her fellow board members, and that justifies her termination — assuming HP is serious when it says that “Directors should have the highest professional and personal ethics and values, consistent with HP’s longstanding values and standards.” And the sooner the company does it, the better off it will be.


Incidentally, what everyone seems happy to refer to now as “pretexting” has been around forever, and back in the early days of hacking and phone “phreaking” used to be called “social engineering.” I think pretexting sounds like when you send someone an SMS message on their phone to let them know you’re going to call them.

2 thoughts on “HP needs to act quickly

  1. I bet that Dunn is only the tip of the iceberg. Her comments that she’ll do what the board wants makes me suspect that the whole board knew about what was going on, but still authorized it. Perkins is the only who is going to come out of this as a hero. Without his commitment to business ethics, the pretexting may have never been disclosed. My guess is that this is going to get ugly real quick and that we’ll see more then one board member brought down over this.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Davis. I think you may be right. And does the trail eventually get traced back to Carly Fiorina too? Enquiring minds want to know.

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