Congress plans hearings on HP 'pretexting'

As scandal over HP methods mushrooms, House plans special hearings; company reps will likely be called to testify.

In a move that promises to complicate Hewlett-Packard's attempts to put its boardroom scandal in the past, a U.S. House of Representatives committee is planning a special hearing on the company's conduct.

An aide to the House Energy and Commerce Committee told CNET Thursday to expect a two-day investigative hearing on the legality and prevalence of telephone "pretexting," the tactic of posing as someone in an attempt to obtain their calling records.

HP has become the subject of intense scrutiny since acknowledging last week that it employed pretexting to determine which board members leaked information to reporters.

One day of the hearing will be dedicated to HP and will be conducted by the subcommittee on oversight and investigations, said the Democratic aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. That would likely involve the House calling HP executives, board members and other parties as witnesses. Interviews with HP representatives before the hearing are also planned.

HP reiterated on Thursday that it intends to provide any documents or information requested by the committee. But HP spokesman Mike Moeller would not say whether executives would testify, if asked. "It's impossible for me to comment one way or the other," he said.

Because members of Congress are planning to leave town in the next few weeks so politicians can campaign for re-election, the hearings would have to be held soon. The House's target adjournment date is Oct. 6.

Federal authorities and the California attorney general are among those looking into the tactics of HP, whose investigation obtained phone records of at least nine journalists, including three reporters, as well as some board members.

Earlier this week, top Democrats and Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a lengthy list of questions to HP and requested replies by Monday. HP has said it will cooperate with the investigation.

A Republican aide to the House Energy and Commerce Committee confirmed that pretexting hearings were being planned but said nothing has been scheduled yet and it was unclear what role HP would play.

CNET reporter Ina Fried contributed to this report.
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