The U.S. Department of Justice is asking questions about conduct by Hewlett-Packard Co. that has embroiled the technology company in controversy.
HP acknowledged in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that it is cooperating with an inquiry by the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California into possibly illegal tactics used by investigators hired by HP to investigate news leaks from the company's board members.
HP described the U.S. Attorney's inquiry as "informal" and said the questions are similar to those asked by the attorney general of California. HP is based in Palo Alto, California. "We are cooperating fully with these inquiries," HP said in its SEC filing.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco, Luke Macaulay, said the Federal Bureau of Investigation is joining the U. S. Attorney in "investigating the processes employed" by HP.
The probes are looking into the use of "pretexting" to search phone records to determine which board members may have been talking to reporters. The phone records of nine reporters from various news organizations were also obtained to determine who their sources from within HP might have been on stories about the company.
Pretexting refers to posing as a phone company customer to get access to personal records. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer says a crime was committed in connection with the pretexting, but his office is still investigating what crime and by whom.
Also Monday, the two top ranking members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee asked HP Chairman Patricia Dunn to disclose the identities of the outside firms that conducted the investigation for the board.
The committee is investigating the protection of personal information from Internet data brokers and gave HP until Sept. 18 to provide detailed information about its probe, according to a letter to Dunn co-signed by U.S. Reps. Joe Barton (Republican from Texas) and John Dingell (Democrat from Michigan).
"The committee is troubled by this information, especially given that it involves HP -- one of America's corporate icons -- using pretexting and data brokers to procure personal telephone records...without [people's] knowledge and consent," the representatives stated. The letter was also co-signed by ranking members of the committee's Subcommitteee on Oversight and Investigations.
HP spokesman Ryan Donovan said HP "intends to cooperate ... and will provide the necessary facts and information requested by the subcommittee." HP has previously declined to identify the private firms employed to conduct the probe.
The scandal has brought pressure on Dunn, who ordered the investigation, but claims she didn't know the outside investigative firm hired to trace the leaks would engage in pretexting. HP's board is meeting Monday for the second straight day to discuss its response to the controversy.