Hewlett-Packard chairman ousted over snooping scandal

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The Independent Online

Hewlett-Packard's chairman agreed to resign yesterday as the computer manufacturer moved to end an embarrassing boardroom feud over leaks to the press.

Patricia Dunn had been under pressure to quit after revelations that her leak inquiry used private detectives who tapped into directors' private phone records, opening up HP to possible criminal charges.

Ms Dunn will relinquish the chairmanship in January, although she will stay on the board. Mark Hurd, the chief executive credited with a renaissance in HP's fortunes over the past 18 months, will add the chairmanship to his roles.

George Keyworth, HP's longest-serving director, who admitted being the source of news stories detailing secret boardroom strategy meetings, also quit yesterday. He will leave immediately.

The shake-up brings HP's board back from the brink. It had previously threatened to tear itself apart over the press leaks and the subsequent mole hunt. One of Mr Keyworth's allies, the veteran Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins, had resigned in disgust at the conduct of the leak inquiry and had been publicly calling for Ms Dunn's resignation.

A private detective firm hired by HP's lawyers to help with the leak inquiry had impersonated at least two directors and nine journalists to get hold of their private phone-call lists - a practice known as "pretexting". The FBI and members of Congress are investigating HP over breaches of privacy, while California's attorney general has said pretexting is illegal in the state.

Although she remained defiant about the need for the leak inquiry, Ms Dunn said yesterday that she was sorry for the way it had been conducted. She said: "The investigation, which was conducted with third parties, included certain inappropriate techniques. These went beyond what we understood them to be, and I apologise that they were employed."