HP chairwoman: Some board members want her to stay

SAN FRANCISCO - Hewlett-Packard Co. Chairwoman Patricia Dunn said Friday that several of her fellow board members want to her remain on the job despite a criminal investigation into her efforts to plug a media leak.

Dunn's crusade spawned a ruse to obtain the personal phone records of company directors and at least nine reporters. It put HP's board at the center of a disagreement that threatens to distract the Palo Alto-based company as it tries to build on a recent run of success in the personal computer and other high-tech markets.

''I serve at the pleasure of the board,'' Dunn told The Associated Press in an interview. ''I totally trust their judgment. If they think it would be better for me to step aside, I would do that. But a number of directors have urged me to hang in there.''

Incensed by several media stories that quoted unnamed people about information shared during HP board meetings, Dunn authorized an investigation earlier this year to determine if any of the company's directors were talking out of turn.

The inquiry convinced HP that George Keyworth II had been providing reporters with confidential company information. The company is punishing him by preventing him from running for re-election to the board.

In Friday's interview, Dunn branded the leaks as an ''egregious breach'' of HP's standards and emphasized the investigation was conducted with the full backing of the board. ''This was not my spy campaign on our board.''

As part of their surveillance, the company's investigators posed as HP directors and at least nine reporters to obtain personal phone records. As part of the masquerade, the investigators used the Social Security numbers of the people involved to dupe the phone companies into turning over the records.

Although a frequent tactic, the trickery - known as ''pretexting'' - tests the bounds of California law. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer is already convinced HP's investigation broke state law, but is still digging to determine the breadth of the violations.

Dunn said she had no clue investigators would resort to pretexting, saying she didn't even know what the word meant until June or July.

The invasion of privacy so infuriated one HP director, longtime Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tom Perkins, that he resigned from the board in May and triggered a chain of event that finally forced HP to publicly disclose its role in the pretexting earlier this week.

On Thursday, Bill Lockyer said HP's clandestine investigation violated two California laws related to identity theft and illegal access to computer records. However, he said he had not decided whether the company or anyone acting on its behalf will face civil or criminal charges.

''The question was: Was a crime committed? The answer is yes. Does that mean charges will result? Well, we haven't completed the investigation so we're not yet certain as to who committed the crime,'' Lockyer told the AP in a phone interview.

''It's likely if evidence continues to come in the way it has that there will be a prosecution,'' he said. ''But we're not ready to go file a complaint. We're still investigating.''