Friday, September 08, 2006

Hewlett-Packard Board Probe Broke Law, California Official Says

(Bloomberg) -- The scandal over Hewlett-Packard Co.'s secret probe to catch leaking information to the media deepened yesterday, with the California attorney general threatening to bring criminal charges.

Investigators hired by Chairwoman Patricia Dunn got board members' phone records using fake identities, and Dunn used the information to weed out the source of leaks under the assumption the methods were legal, according to Palo Alto, California-based Hewlett-Packard. Bill Lockyer, the state's highest-ranking law enforcement official, said he is working to determine who violated identity theft and computer-information theft laws.

``It appears that a crime has been committed, we're convinced of that,'' Lockyer said in a telephone interview yesterday. ``It's unclear exactly who is liable and how severe it is and who had specific knowledge.''

The board of Hewlett-Packard, the second-largest maker of personal computers, is reeling from disclosures that the investigation started by Dunn resulted in hired vendors obtaining the phone records of directors and nine journalists. AT&T Inc., the largest U.S. phone company, helped the attorney general investigate alleged unauthorized access to call records and is suing 25 unknown individuals who set up phony accounts.

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