HP's Hurd drawn into leak scandal

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The Independent Online

Mark Hurd, the chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, has been drawn into the spiraling spying scandal at the computer manufacturer.

Today he will set out exactly what he knew about the controversial investigation into boardroom leaks, which involved impersonating directors to obtain their phone records and trying to trap journalists into revealing their sources.

It emerged yesterday that Mr Hurd approved an elaborate sting operation to send e-mails containing inside information to a San Francisco journalist, and then electronically follow where she forwarded the e-mails.

Silicon Valley has been transfixed by the unfolding saga, and stunned by the lengths HP went to in order to track down the source of boardroom leaks. Many of the tactics have provoked hilarity - including a scheme to infiltrate the newsrooms of several major US newspapers - but others have attracted the attention of state and federal prosecutors. The attorney general of California is promising to press charges over the impersonation of at least two directors and 10 journalists which enabled HP's private eyes to access confidential phone records.

HP shares fell by 5.2 per cent yesterday - making it the biggest faller in the Dow Jones index - as newspapers reported internal e-mails showing how Mr Hurd approved some aspects of the leak investigation.

Until now, Mr Hurd had escaped suspicion of being too heavily involved. He has won plaudits on Wall Street for turning around HP's trading performance since becoming chief executive 18 months ago, and when Patricia Dunn, the chairman and the person in charge of the leak investigation, agreed earlier this month to stand down to defuse the scandal, HP's board said Mr Hurd would add the chairmanship to his role in January.