HP board mum on Dunn's fate

Following a Sunday meeting to discuss a probe of leaks to the news media, the board plans to reconvene late Monday.

Hewlett-Packard's board of directors met for several hours Sunday but adjourned without announcing a decision on the fate of Chairman Patricia Dunn, who is facing calls to resign in the wake of a probe of board members and journalists that involved access to personal phone records.

The company said it would reconvene Monday and would issue no further statements regarding the probe until that time.

Dunn has been at the center of a controversy involving the ordinarily secret activities of HP's boardroom. After leaks to the press beginning in 2005, Dunn ordered an investigation of board members that led one to resign and put the post of another in jeopardy.

HP said in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it hired an investigation company to try to track down board leaks to the media. The investigators in turn hired a contractor that used pretexting to scrutinize board members, HP said. Pretexting is the practice of one person masquerading as another to obtain private information such as phone records.

The technology giant acknowledged on Thursday that investigators accessed the phone records of nine reporters, including three from News.com.

Dunn has said she did not know private investigators hired by the computer maker had used questionable tactics to access private phone records of board directors and journalists. The office of California's attorney general has issued subpoenas to determine whether the used of pretexting broke any laws.

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Thomas Perkins, who quit HP's board in May over how the board conducted the probe, said Saturday that Dunn should resign her position.

"I acted not from any ill will toward Ms. Dunn but to protect the best interests of HP," Perkins said in a statement. "I think the past months and days have shown that those interests are best served if Ms. Dunn would resign from the board."

Dunn has said she has no plans to step down. "If the board wants me to resign, I will absolutely accept their judgment on this," Dunn said. "I have full confidence that if they ask me to, it'll be the right thing to do for shareholders."

HP's privacy policy says the company obtains personal information by "lawful and fair means." The company's official Standards of Business Conduct (click for PDF) says HP conducts business "fairly, legally and with integrity," and lists theft and records falsification as misconduct that can result in termination of employment.

The probe has sparked an inquiry by California's attorney general that could result in criminal liability for identity theft and illegally accessing database information.

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