In a day of executive shakeups intended to put its boardroom scandal in the past, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) Tuesday announced that Chief Executive Officer and President Mark Hurd will replace Patricia Dunn as chairman, and that board member George Keyworth has resigned, effective immediately.
Hurd will take on the chairman's job after a Jan. 18 board meeting. In addition, Richard Hackborn, who has been on the board since 1992, has been chosen as the lead independent director as of January.
The announcements came after meetings of the board over the weekend and Monday, called to discuss how to handle recent revelations that the board investigated its own members and reporters in efforts to determine the source of leaks of company information.
In another executive departure announced Tuesday though not linked by the company to the board scandal, HP's executive vice president of global operations, Gilles Bouchard, will leave the company at the end of October.
Although HP executives said they hope the shakeup puts the boardroom infighting behind them, federal, state and Congressional investigations may provide more embarrassments. A House committee has asked HP to identify the private investigative firm that probed the board leaks to news media and the subcontractor also hired, which used controversial methods known as "pretexting" to check the phone records of directors and journalists who cover HP.
HP declined Tuesday to identify the contractors.
"When and how we provide information is between us and the regulatory agencies," said Ryan Donovan, an HP spokesman.
But eventually the names will come out, said Chris Hoofnagle, senior counsel at the Samuelson Law Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the University of California at Berkeley.
"It will come out and it will result in another round of news stories and embarrassment for the company," said Hoofnagle, an advocate for privacy rights.
Estimates are that anywhere from 40 to 50 companies engage in "pretexting" as an investigative tool and maybe up to 100 that resell such information, he said.
"It's too easy to get away with pretexting because in many cases the victims are unwilling to reveal that their rights have been violated, because they're engaged in marital infidelity or they're a board leaker," Hoofnagle said.
The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission and the House Energy and Commerce Committee are among the institutions investigating pretexting on a national level, he said.
Dunn has been under intense pressure to step down as chairman after it came to light last week that the board of directors carried out an investigation to determine who among the board leaked confidential information to journalists. The board admitted in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the internal probe involved "pretexting," where employees of an investigative firm hired by the company pretended to be reporters to gain access to their telephone records.