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Former HP Chair, Four Others Charged in Leak Investigation

By Damon Darlin
THE NEW YORK TIMES


SAN FRANCISCO

Hewlett-Packard’s former chairwoman was among five people charged Wednesday with illegally gathering phone records of board members, journalists and others in an effort to find the source of news leaks.

The felony charges, filed by the California attorney general’s office, are the first stemming from a spying operation that ended last spring but came to light a month ago in disclosures by a disgruntled former director.

The case has rocked the company, forcing out HP chairwoman, Patricia C. Dunn, along with the company’s general counsel, a second director and two other senior officials. A House subcommittee conducted hearings on the case last week, and federal prosecutors have also been considering charges.

It was Dunn who authorized the operation, aimed at tracing leaks from the board, and put it into the hands of outside investigators. Those charged with her on Wednesday included the in-house lawyer who supervised one phase of the operation and three of the detectives.

The charges stem from the use of pretexting, a form of deception, to obtain private calling records from phone company employees.

“We plan to aggressively prosecute this case,” William Lockyer, the California attorney general, said at a news conference in Sacramento. “However, the investigation into this matter remains active and still incomplete.”

HP’s former general counsel, Ann O. Baskins, who resigned hours before the House hearing last week, was not among those charged Wednesday. Nor was Mark V. Hurd, the chief executive, who has overseen a period of resurgence that has buoyed the company’s stock even in the face of the recent upheaval.

“There currently is no evidence that Mark Hurd engaged in wrongdoing,” Lockyer said Wednesday.

Concerns over leaks from the board predated the ouster of Carly Fiorina as chairwoman and chief executive in early 2005. In a memoir to be published next week, Fiorina says that she ordered an initial leak investigation shortly before her departure.

The charges against Dunn, who is expected to appear in court within 24 hours, come as she battles advanced ovarian cancer. “I truly hope Ms. Dunn wins her fight against this disease,” Lockyer said. “However, her illness has no impact on her culpability.”