Hewlett Packard's Unethical Investigation

Topics: Board of directors, Corporate governance, Hewlett-Packard Pages: 6 (2466 words) Published: January 22, 2011
Unethical Investigation
The fourth amendment to the United States constitution tells us that ”the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated”. In other words, it is illegal for persons to go through your things without your consent or knowledge. This is fairly straightforward and simple, right? Not exactly! Patricia Dunn was accused of hiring private investigators to investigate members of the board of Hewlett Packard. These investigators used a technique known as pretexting, a practice of getting your personal information under false pretenses (Federal Trade Commission, 2008). In this case the investigators called the phone company used by each of the board members, impersonated the board member, and gave personal information to gain access to the board members’ phone records. Patricia Dunn was told this was legal but didn’t seem to look at the ethical aspect of it. Should she have been forced to resign? My answer to this question is yes! The Hewlett Packard web site states the following: Trust and respect have always been the cornerstones of HP's success and they always will be. The values that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard established nearly 70 years ago are as relevant today as they've ever been: •We are passionate about customers;

We have trust and respect for individuals;
We perform at a high level of achievement and contribution; •We act with speed and agility;
We deliver meaningful innovation;
We achieve our results through teamwork; and
We conduct our business with uncompromising integrity.
Our values are the foundation of everything we do (HP Business Ethics, 2008). What Patricia Dunn allowed under her watch may not have been exactly illegal, but it was definitely unethical. How could Hewlett Packard (HP) continue to claim these values if they have a board member who does not have trust and respect for other board members and their privacy, and who does not work with the utmost integrity?

Patricia Dunn was accused of orchestrating the investigation in which HP admits to spying on the phone records of nine journalists and the board of directors of HP (Kaplan, 2006). It all began back in 2005 when Mark Hurd was chosen to be HP’s new chief executive officer, at that time Patricia Dunn was the chairman of the board, and Tom Perkins was the director. From the beginning there were problems with this group. Perkins saw the big picture and left the details to others. Meanwhile, Dunn thought it was her job to take care of the details. Perkins didn’t care for the way Dunn tended to the business of the company and vice versa (Kaplan, 2006). “Then in 2006 the online technology site CNET published an article about HP’s long term strategy” (Kaplan, 2006). The article quoted an anonymous HP source and contained information only one of the directors could have known. Dunn was determined to discover who was leaking the information and she called for an investigation. “The idea that the most sensitive discussions of the board would end up on the front page of the Wall Street Journal was destructive. It destroyed the trust between people and if they don’t trust each other they can’t function as a board” (Bonin, R. & Cooper C., 2006). Dunn passed the information on to HP’s general counsel, who then contracted out the investigation to security experts who hired private investigators, who then obtained and went through the phone records of the directors to find the leak, using the technique of pretexting (Kaplan, 2006). The investigation included the use of possibly illegal methods to obtain the phone records of board members and journalists and included an attempted to place software on a reporter’s computer in order to track his emails (Darlin & Richtel, 2006). In May 2006 when the investigation was disclosed to the HP board, Dunn fingered board member George Keyworth as the source of the leaks (Ard,...

References: Ard, S. (2006, September 22). Leak Scandal Costs HP’s Dunn her Chairman Job. CNET News. Retrieved on January 25, 2008, from http://www.news.com/2100-1014_3-6114655.html
Background information
Bonin, R. & Cooper, C. (2006 October 8). Patricia Dunn: I am innocent. [60 Minutes] Palo Alto, CA: CBS Broadcasting Inc.
Darlin, D. (2006, October 4). Adviser Urges HP to Focus on Ethics Over Legalities. The New York Times.
Darlin, D & Richtel, M. (2006, September 23). Chairwoman Leaves Hewlett in Spying Furor. The New York Times .
Federal Trade Commission Protecting America’s Consumers. Facts for Consumers. Retrieved on January 25, 2008 from http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/credit/pretext.shtm
Hewlett Packard Business ethics, guided by enduring values
Katz, L. (2007, March 15). California Court Drops Charges Against Dunn. CNET News. Retrieved January 25, 2008 from http://www.news.com/Calif.-court-drops-charges-against-Dunn/2100-1014_3-6167187.html
Kirkpatrick, D
Krazit, Tom. (2006, September 7). FAQ: The HP ‘Pretexting’ Scandal. CNET News. Retrieved January 25, 2008 from http://www.news.com/FAQ-The-HP-pretexting-scandal/2100-1014_3-6113011.html.
Patricia Dunn Resigns from HP Board. Retrieved January 27, 2008 from http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/newsroom/press/2006/060922a.html
Sarathy, R & Robertson, C
MSNBC News Services. (2006 September 20). HP Ethics Officer Questioned Spy Tactics. Retrieved on January 25, 2008 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/14919183/
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