Dell calls on HP to investigate spying charges

Hewlett-Packard says it discussed allegations that employees spied on rival, but Dell wants more thorough investigation.

A corporate shoving match has begun between Hewlett-Packard and Dell following new allegations that HP robbed Dell of trade secrets.

Fortune magazine reported this week that it unearthed information that appears to support claims made by Karl Kamb Jr., a former HP vice president. Kamb said in legal documents filed in January that in 2002 HP paid a former Dell executive to snatch trade secrets about Dell's printer business.

After the story, a Dell spokesman said HP had yet to respond to requests that the company investigate Kamb's accusations. HP is suing Kamb for allegedly stealing some of its technology.

In legal documents, HP denied spying on Dell. HP said in a statement that it has responded multiple times to Dell's requests.

"In January and February 2007, HP responded to letters from Dell's general counsel," HP said in the statement. "In addition, Dell's outside counsel and HP's outside counsel have spoken and met numerous times and continue to remain in contact in an effort to address any lingering concerns surrounding these issues."

Dell suggested that HP is missing the point. Dell, headquartered in Round Rock, Texas, wants an investigation to determine whether its trade secrets were stolen.

"We have a simple request that we have made twice and will continue to make," Dell said in a statement. "We have specifically asked HP to conduct a full and thorough investigation. We have been waiting to learn the results of their investigation, or to receive an explanation of why they have chosen not to investigate this matter. Instead, we have heard nothing.

"We do not know what investigation they undertook, what witnesses they spoke to, what conclusions they reached or what actions they intend to take in response to these allegations. At Dell, we believe corporate espionage is unacceptable and we take allegations of this nature very seriously."

If true, Kamb's claims would contradict HP's assertions that the hunt for a boardroom leak last year was an isolated event.

Several HP executives, including Patricia Dunn, HP's former chairman, were rebuked by a congressional committee after the executives acknowledged that spying on board members, employees and journalists--including three from CNET News.com--had occurred. HP investigators are also accused of tricking phone company employees into turning over private phone records belonging to journalists and board members, a practice known as pretexting.

On Friday, an HP representative declined to say whether the company had launched an investigation into Kamb's allegations, citing the court order that prevented HP and Kamb from discussing their case publicly.

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