Ex-HP Chairwoman, 4 Others Face Charges
Wednesday, October 4, 2006; 10:59 PM
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Prosecutors filed criminal charges Wednesday against Hewlett-Packard's former chairwoman and four others involved in the corporate spying scandal that has shaken the Silicon Valley tech giant long revered for its ethics and professionalism.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer accused two ousted HP insiders _ chairwoman Patricia Dunn and chief ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker _ and three outside investigators _ Ronald DeLia, Matthew DePante of Melbourne, Fla. and Bryan Wagner of Littleton, Colo. _ of violating state privacy laws in HP's crusade to root out the source of boardroom leaks.
They each face four felony counts: use of false or fraudulent pretenses to obtain confidential information from a public utility; unauthorized access to computer data; identity theft; and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes. Each charge carries a fine of up to $10,000 and three years in prison.
The case was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court in San Jose.
HP CEO Mark Hurd is not among those charged, nor was HP's former General Counsel Ann Baskins, who had some oversight of the company's investigation of media leaks.
At an afternoon news conference, Lockyer said California has some of the strictest privacy laws in the country and Californians value them so much that they are enshrined in the state constitution. Therefore, he said, it's crucial that those who break them are prosecuted.
"One of our state's most venerable institutions lost its way as its board sought to find out who leaked confidential company information to the press," he said, vowing to hold those who broke the law accountable.
Lockyer asked the court to issue arrest warrants for those charged. His office said it has arranged for Dunn and Hunsaker to surrender and hopes the out-of-state defendants will voluntarily waive extradition to California.
The scandal erupted last month when HP disclosed that detectives it hired to root out a series of boardroom leaks secretly obtained detailed phone logs of directors, employees and journalists. The detectives used a potentially criminal form of subterfuge known as pretexting to masquerade as their targets and trick telephone companies into turning over the records.
According to the criminal complaint, private investigators working for HP compromised the personal data of more than 24 people, including HP directors, employees and journalists. By March, the detectives had compiled records of 1,750 phone calls made on 157 cellular phones and 413 landlines.
In one of the more egregious cases, an impostor posing as CNET journalist Dawn Kawamoto in January successfully had Kawamoto's cell phone password removed, logged into her online account and changed the password. Several days later, someone viewed Kawamoto's detailed call log for nine minutes.
Pretexting will become a criminal offense in California when a new law signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger takes effect Jan. 1. Violators will be punished by $2,500 in fines and up to a year in jail, though the law will not retroactively apply to the HP investigation.