Although Hewlett-Packard's spying scandal has led to the resignation of four high-ranking officials and evoked comparisons in Congress to Watergate and fraud at Enron, it isn't likely to impede the company's long-term ability to compete, analysts and investors said.
So far, these groups said, there has been scant evidence linking Mark Hurd to the legally questionable practice of pretexting, in which investigators probing news leaks impersonated board members and journalists in order to obtain their phone records. So long as Hurd is not shown to have approved or participated in those activities, HP is likely to emerge with its viability intact.
"The problem has obviously been recognized and is being rectified, and with time the business will build back to normal," said Alex Vallecillo, a portfolio manager who follows technology stocks at Allegiant Asset Management. "We're all big boys and girls, and we understand what goes on in the corporate boardroom has no effect on the ability of [HP's] products and services to deliver value."
Indeed, HP's shares gained 1.6 percent on Thursday, the same day Patricia Dunn, who was forced to resign as the company's chairman last week, was grilled before a hearing convened by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Ten people involved with the investigation asserted their Fifth Amendment rights in declining to answer representatives' questions.
Since Sept. 5, the day before the news of the scandal broke, HP shares have fallen 1.1 percent, compared with a 2.9 percent gain for the Nasdaq composite index and a 2.1 percent gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average.
Although the negative attention has been a distraction for HP, "that's a very short-term situation, which I expect to pass soon," said Sunil Reddy, senior portfolio manager at Fifth Third Asset Management. "All the cards are on the table right now; I'd be very surprised if anything new comes out."
Analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group, attending an event in New York where HP was showing off new PCs ahead of the Christmas shopping season, agreed. The corporate buyers he's talked to aren't likely to choose HP competitors as a result of the scandal, and he said he expected non-business customers to feel the same way.
"It relates to behavior of folks the average consumer doesn't relate with and probably doesn't understand."
That said, HP's investigative techniques have become the butt of plenty of jokes, Enderle said, in which business customers tell HP sales staff: "We're probably going to send this out to bid, but you probably already know that because you've been looking at my phone records."