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California AG considering civil suit against HP

State's top cop is gathering information about damage that may have been caused by covert attempts to unearth leaks to the media.

California's attorney general is close to making a decision on whether to file a civil suit against Hewlett-Packard as a result of the company's spying campaign against journalists, employees and board members, CNET has learned.

The state is still gathering information about the damage that may have been caused to those on whom HP spied as the company attempted to unearth the origin of news leaks, according to sources close to the matter. What remains unclear is the statutes under which the state is considering filing.

Representatives from the attorney general's office on Wednesday began contacting some of those who had been under surveillance by HP investigators during its probe.

Tom Dresslar, a spokesman for California Attorney General Bill Lockyer, phoned's Stephen Shankland, one of three reporters whose personal phone records were obtained by HP without their knowledge or permission. Dresslar requested contact information for all three reporters.

"Expect to be contacted by our office in the near future," Shankland quoted Dresslar as telling him.

One of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the attorney general is trying to determine the kind of damage that may have been caused by HP's spying, the source said.

HP declined to comment on the potential lawsuit.

The spying operation began in 2005 and some of the tactics used to gather information included duping telephone company employees into turning over private records.

Five people connected to HP's investigation, including Patricia Dunn, the company's former chairman, have been charged by California's attorney general with conspiracy, identity theft and two other felonies. All five have entered not guilty pleas.

In other news Wednesday, a shareholder lawsuit is accusing HP executives of selling more than $40 million in company stock just before the spying being made public, the Associated Press reported.

Filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court on behalf of all HP shareholders, the claim accuses HP leaders, including CEO Mark Hurd, of engaging in insider trading, breaching their fiduciary duties and causing substantial harm to the company, the AP reported.