Day of Shame for HP?

If Patricia Dunn’s statement is true that several of her board-of-directors colleagues want her to stay on as chairman, well, the next investigation launched by HP should be a probe into where, exactly, the board members misplaced their moral compasses.

In investigating board-level leaks, Dunn has commissioned and countenanced violations of California criminal law. She is pleading ignorance of the investigative tactics that her contractors and subcontractors employed — she says she didn’t know the term “pretexting” or its meaning until June or July — but, even if that were true, it should in no way absolve her of the ultimate accountability and responsibility for their scofflaw actions.

These people were acting on her behalf. It was up to her to manage them responsibly, just as it was up to her to provide a higher standard of accountability and leadership for HP’s board of directors. She failed these tests in multiple respects.

First of all, as I mentioned earlier, she should not have launched an investigation into her own board. It’s asinine, juvenile, and wholly unbecoming of the chairman of one of the technology industry’s largest public companies. That she felt compelled to do so demonstrates overwhelmingly that HP’s board was plagued by more than a few leaks of sensitive information.

Second, even granting that the advent of such an investigation might be justified on some shaky ethical or fiduciary basis, it should have been Dunn’s responsibility to ensure that the contracted investigators conducted themselves and their probe with discretion, integrity, prudence, and — last, but certainly not least — basic adherence to the law. Yes, that would have been good; obeying the law would have been a start, one would think.

Not only that, but it seems that Dunn’s detectives somehow obtained at least part of the Social Security numbers of one board member and several business journalists. I wonder how they got the board member’s Social Security number. It appears, from the available evidence, that the last four digits of the board member’s Social Security number were supplied to the contracted snoops by HP itself.

Now ask yourself this question: How could Dunn and her lieutenants not have known of the legally dubious methods the private investigators were about to use if they were the ones who provided the gumshoes with the personal, private information required to run a pretexting scam?

This stinks, folks. It stinks to high heaven. Hewlett Packard must hold its board to a higher level of ethical conduct than this. You know the old saying, “The fish always stinks from the head down.” Right now, HP has a very stinky head.

How come most of us know what has to be done and HP doesn’t?


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