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SEC to get classified HP merger papers

Confidential information gathered as part of Walter Hewlett's lawsuit to block the HP-Compaq merger will not be released to the public but will be turned over to federal regulators.

    Confidential information gathered as part of Walter Hewlett's lawsuit to block the merger between Hewlett-Packard and Compaq Computer will not be released to the public but will be turned over to federal regulators.

    The judge hearing the case signed an order, made public Friday, stipulating that documents that both Hewlett and the company gain through depositions or as part of the discovery process will be kept from public view. But they may be turned over to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which HP has said is investigating the proxy contest.

    Either side can designate as confidential the material it believes is sensitive. Hewlett had initially hoped to keep the identities of those providing him with information secret from all but HP's outside counsel. However, the two sides eventually agreed to allow HP's in-house lawyers to see the information as well, but not to share the details with company management.

    The order comes as HP and Hewlett are preparing for a trial that starts Tuesday in Wilmington, Del. Hewlett is asking the court to throw out the results of HP's March 19 shareholder vote, charging that HP inappropriately got Deutsche Bank to change its vote in favor of the deal and alleging that HP failed to disclose problems it was encountering in its integration effort.

    Separately, Compaq said Friday that the SEC has asked it to retain documents related to its vote-solicitation efforts.

    "The SEC has asked us and a number of other parties to preserve documents that might be related to the HP vote," Compaq said in a statement. "We are confident that the SEC's investigation, like the trial in Delaware next week, will demonstrate that HP followed the right process in gaining approval of the merger from its shareholders."