PALO ALTO, Calif. – Hewlett-Packard Co. shoved Chairwoman Patricia Dunn off its board Friday, severing its ties to a leader whose efforts to plug a media leak morphed into a spying scandal that has spawned criminal and congressional investigations.
The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company will turn the chairmanship over to its chief executive, Mark Hurd, who was supposed to take over that job in January as part of changes announced two weeks ago.
But things have changed since then amid a wave of leaked documents revealing how deeply HP’s investigators intruded into the personal lives of seven directors, nine journalists, two employees and family members of those targeted individuals. Dunn authorized the investigation and received regular updates, although she said she didn’t realize HP’s investigators were going to such extremes.
“Now that we know the depth of what has transpired, I take full accountability to drive the actions to set it right,” Hurd told reporters as he announced Dunn’s departure and reviewed what the company has learned about its spying program. He took no questions.
Dunn had previously planned to remain an HP director after relinquishing the chairmanship in January, but now she is leaving the board entirely.
“I continue to have the best interests of HP at heart and thus I have accepted the board’s request to resign,” Dunn said in a Friday statement.
Dunn, 53, continued to defend her decision to initiate the probe to identify the boardroom leak and reiterated her intention to appear Thursday before a congressional panel looking into HP’s spying spree.
Determined to protect confidential board discussions, Dunn hired investigators who impersonated board members, employees and journalists to obtain their phone records. The detectives also surveilled an HP director and concocted an e-mail sting to dupe a reporter for CNet Networks Inc.’s News.com, an online technology site.
Hurd on Friday acknowledged authorizing the bogus e-mail, but said he didn’t recall approving the use of software to trace the reporter’s computer.
California Attorney General Bill Lockyer and several federal agencies are investigating whether HP and its executives broke any laws in their crusade.
Hurd so far isn’t among the group of HP insiders that Lockyer expects to charge, spokesman Tom Dresslar said Friday. But the attorney general is still examining Hurd’s role in the scandal. “We are not ruling anybody out in terms of criminal culpability, Dresslar said.
Hurd also said Friday he plans to appear at the hearing being held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Dunn and General Counsel Ann Baskins, who also played a central role in the spying program, previously accepted the panel’s invitation to appear.