California Attorney General Bill Lockyer says criminal charges are likely in the scandal surrounding alleged spying involving the board of Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), but a spokesman for Lockyer said the investigation could take "months."
Meanwhile, the HP board will hold a special meeting via conference call on Sunday to discuss the fallout from the issue, HP spokeswoman Emma Wischhusen told IDG News Service.
Chairman Patricia Dunn says she will not resign over the scandal and that she was "appalled" that contractors hired to investigate news leaks used potentially illegal methods, according to news reports.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd, in a letter to company employees that was released late Friday, urged them to keep focused on their work. "The media coverage and speculation regarding the recent actions of the HP Board … have nothing to do with the strategy or operations of Hewlett-Packard," he said.
Hurd, who emphasized that he was speaking as CEO and not as a board member, added: "There has been a long history of leaking company information with the HP board that clearly needs to be resolved."
HP is on the defensive after the disclosures this week that phone records of HP board members and journalists were hacked to see who on the board discussed with reporters confidential board strategy sessions earlier this year. The company disclosed in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday that investigators, in order to identify the leaker, had used "pretexting," a method in which false pretenses are used to gain online access to others' phone records.
The investigation determined that director George Keyworth was the source for a Cnet.com story in January about HP's strategy.
Keyworth was asked to resign from the board in May but refused. Board member Thomas Perkins, a renowned Silicon Valley venture capitalist, did resign in May in protest over concerns with the HP board's handling of investigations into leaks of confidential information.
The news that the phone records of nine reporters who cover HP were hacked has outraged some in the journalism profession.
"HP. Does that stand for Hewlett-Packard or 'Hackers of Privacy?'" asked Christine Tatum, president of the Society of Professional Journalists, a professional and advocacy organization for journalists, in a statement Friday.
"Journalists are not the only ones who should be concerned with this issue," said Tatum, who is a business writer for the Denver Post. "Pretexting could be used against disgruntled customers, employees or debtors."
HP's response that it was "dismayed" that phone records were hacked strikes Tatum as insufficient: "This [pretexting] practice amounts to identity theft and a national corporation should be held accountable."
Dunn, in an interview in the Wall Street Journal Friday, said that while she ordered the investigation of board news leaks, she did not know the investigators hired to conduct the probe used pretexting.