Town Square

Post a New Topic

Softpedaling HP's criminal behavior at the top

Original post made by J.L. on Sep 8, 2006

Web Link

To say that hp directors merely 'spied' on reporters and their own peers to find a source of a leak is an undertstatement.

It's been interesting to watch the press handle this, as the perpetrators are high-level corporate executives.

If this had been a hacker the questionable behavior engaged in by hp directors would have been called what it is - i.e. "identity theft" used to gain access to private information, period.

The softpedaled euphamism "pretexting" has been put out there by the press to make it look likek something other than it is - simple identity theft and fraud.

Let's see what kind of 'justice' comes out of this. Everyone involved should face legal penalties, and - if found guilty in a court of law - should be summarily dismissed from their currently held positions.

Comments (16)

Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2006 at 7:03 pm

It's a pretty good bet that Tom Perkins, with his resources, will make someone pay dearly for tapping into his records. HP tapping into multiple reporters phone records is frosting on the cake.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Sep 8, 2006 at 10:49 pm

Reporters are actually making a bigger deal of this than investors,
because they were victimized and getting people to leak is a big part of their modus operandi.

Investors are bidding UP the price of the stock.


Posted by R.J., a resident of Downtown North
on Sep 9, 2006 at 2:25 pm

I'm surprised how the Palo Alto Daily has been downplaying this scandal, which is occurring in its backyard. I mean how many people in Palo Alto are employed by HP? You'd think the local paper would have more of an interest in this story, which is making the front pages of other newspapers in the area. Every figure in this story from Pattie Dunn to Tom Perkins to Larry Sosini to Joe Simitian has a link to Palo Alto.


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 12, 2006 at 11:43 am

The outrage over pretexting is nonsense. The only scandal is the fact that a director disclosed confidential info to the press. The Board knew that they were being investigated, and approved that investigation. They have no reason to complain about the pretexting operation. Perkins was the biggest cheerleader for vigorous investigation of the leak, suggesting that everyone on the board be given lie detector tests. It was only after his golfing buddy on the board turned out to be the culprit that he suddenly feigned outrage at the investigation. Pretexting is not illegal (except perhaps under some stretch of some unrelated statute cooked up by the attorney general to granstand and get headlines), and in these circumstances it is not unethical to so target the board. Pretexting the reporters is another story, and was a mistake. But other than apologizing to the reporters, which has been done, HP should not have backed down and forced its chairperson to resign. Now the CEO is chairperson -- a sly grab for power on his part.


Posted by chris, a resident of University South
on Sep 12, 2006 at 4:59 pm

HP's crisis management has not been getting good grades. However,
Howard's suggesstion would be an even bigger public relations disater. HP is one of the 10 or 11 largest companies in the country
and needs to be obey laws as well as respect public opinion.

HP spends billions of $ advertising and promoting its brand. It cannot blow that investment by ignoring public opinion.


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2006 at 9:21 pm

Howard...."The outrage over pretexting is nonsense."

uh, yeah, wehn you call it "pretexting" - - how about when you call it "identity theft" - that's what it was.

btw, you'll notice that Dunn is just moving sideways. If what she and the board did was done at the director or VP level, heads would roll.

The whole things wreaks of hypocrisy and special treatment; I hope the DA files charges. Who do these people hink they are? And they're supposed to be modeling behavior for the rest of the firm?


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 12, 2006 at 9:39 pm

and so it is! Bill Lockyer is going to make an example tthose who were involved. It's time that those in high places learn that breaking the law is breaking the law, and identity theft isi identity theft, no matter what they would rather call it.
Web Link


Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 13, 2006 at 1:55 pm

To refer to pretexting as equivalent to identity theft is a real stretch. Don't get me wrong -- if some bill collector, marketer, or the like pried into my calls by pretending to be me, I would feel wronged and would support a law that would make such activity illegal. Likewise, if a relative or acquaintance did it because of some dispute or from curiosity, that is wrong and I would be offended. But the HP case is quite different. There, the Board agreed and urged that an investigation take place. Lie detector tests were even discussed. These poeple were tied with a fiduciary duty to the corporation, and one of their members had breached that duty. For them to complain about the fact that an investigator, that they themselves had engaged, looked at their phone records for the purpose of finding the wrongdoer is unjustified. For the self-righteous commentators, such as the participants in this string, to complain is ridiculous.


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 13, 2006 at 4:56 pm

Howard, you just don't get it - like the HP board didn't, and it's now-ex-chairperson didn't, and some of who will (and should) face formal charges for illegal misrepresentation and identity theft, didn't.

In fact, Howard, you're doing what the press _was_ doing until it saw the light - softpedaling criminal activity because it originated in high corporate places. "You do the crime, you do the time" should be on every corporate boardroom wall, lest the very talented peoplep who usually populate those places think that they are beyond the law. (granted, a very easy thing to assume if one has been in any position of power, for any length of time)

Howard, these links will help you gain insight into different kinds of _identiity theft_, including one of its soft metaphors, 'pretexting'.


from the FTC - read the first two paragraphs -
Web Link

from the Federal Reserve
Web Link

from a well repected tech site
Web Link

Web Link






Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 14, 2006 at 7:50 pm

To JL: I carefully read the links. You're right -- I still don't get it. The first two links discuss the REAL problem of identiy theft -- in the course of committing ACTUAL CRIMES such as charging to a stranger's credit card for a purchase, withdrawing funds from another's account, etc. In the course of such criminal behavior, the use of pretexting to get account info is of course a crime.

In contrast, the HP Board was investigating wrongdoing, and in the course of doing so its investigator used pretexting to track down the wrongdoer. The HP Board was not the wrongder -- it was the leaker that was the wrongdoer. One of the links softpedals the seriousness of the leaks. From what I have read, there were a series of leaks that were very disruptive.

In any event, what HP board did was in no way, shape or form criminal. One of the links explains that pretexting is a common investigative technique. Even in California, attempts to make pretexting explicitly illegal have been rejected, according to one leak. The attorney general is out in the corn field in saying otherwise -- obviously just jumping on a media-frenzy bandwagon. His citation to the California Constitution's right to privacy is a pathetic reach.


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 15, 2006 at 1:49 am

Howard, we can go round and round on this - here's a scenario...

Let's say that I own a small consumer electronics store, and find out that one (I don't know which one) of my employees is burning (copying) electronic media after hours and posting those illegal copies to an website operating legally in Sweden, where they're offered for sale.

I tell my employees about this and they're upset, because they know that until the perpetrator is found, they will all be under suspicion.

The only way I can figure out how to catch this person is to hire a private investigator, to whom I provide all my employee's private information, so that the investigator can call my employee's phone providers, banks, other communication providers, etc., in order to do discovery on their communication and financial activities - in the hope that I can link someone to a bank account for the Swedish website, or a phone call to the illegal website's head office, or a wire transfer from their bank to my employee's bank.

Guess what? That's unauthorized use of private, personal information to gain *illegal* access to billing records, and other activities. I have essentially given a third party (the private investigator) information that I am *legally* required to keep confidential, so that he can use it for private discovery - i.e. I have taken the law into my own hands.

I have, in a very real sense, *broken the law* regarding my *legal* obligation to keep my employee's private information confidential. I have *illegally* stolen (as I'm required to keep them "locked") my employee's private information to gain ILLEGAL access to their private records.

As far as I know there's only ONE way to LEGALLY get that kind of information to a third party, through a court order, rendered through the legal system, and authorized by a judge.

Whether or not you think State AG Lockyer's "citation to the California Constitution's right to privacy is a pathetic reach" in this case, he will probably make that reach, and hopefully make the case. I wish him godspeed.

An end point. What do you think would happen to the owner of that small consumer electronics store if his activities were discovered? He would certainly face civil, if not criminal charges, and his actions would have been labeled as "identity theft", NOT "pretexting".

"Pretexting" is to "identity theft" as "driving too fast" is to "reckless driving". they're the same thing, given different names to reduce perceived severity of the crime.

At the very least, civil and/or criminal charges should be brought against anyone on the HP board who initiated or colluded in this fiasco. Anyone who consciously knew what was going on, or approved certain actions with a "wink and nod" is a disgrace to sound, ethical corporate governance; an embarrassment to shareholders they are bound to represent; and a further disgrace to HP - a company whose good name and tradition are getting dragged through the mud as a result of this most unsettling and unseemly activity.




Posted by Howard, a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 15, 2006 at 10:23 am

JL: Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I remain in disagreement with you in substantial respects, but I do agree that to go round and round might wear out the internet.


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 16, 2006 at 9:11 pm

A Chronicle article of relevance

Web Link


Posted by resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 19, 2006 at 9:31 am

I am just dumbfounded by this -- I witness corporate crime all the time where ordinary people are victims, would that it would generate a tiny fraction of this concern.

Banks regularly play games with their credit card due dates to get a windfall on those late fees and interest charges. Insurance companies regularly cheat the most vulnerable among us, counting on the fact that only a very few can actually sue. (Government is doing nothing and we're talking big big RICO-type crime, including illegal surveillance that puts the above to shame.) Medical insurers are persecuting and intimidating doctors at the regulatory level because the treatments they prescribe are expensive. Corporate conflicts of interest are corrupting research results every day -- with lives and our reputation as a nation at stake. And what of large-scale voter fraud? Hasn't been fixed in how many years?!! Does Congress not have anything more important to do, as in saving the integrity of our democracy? The kinds of things that happened at HP are wrong, yes, but frankly as an ordinary citizen, I could really care less, except for how incensed I am that it's taking up so much energy and media time as compared to real corporate crime that steals from, hurts, or even kills innocent people every day in this country.


Posted by J.L., a resident of Ventura
on Sep 19, 2006 at 12:23 pm

resident, you might find this relevant
Web Link

All the things you mention above bear watching, and action. They are the result of the abuse of power. That said, the HP action is not an isolated incident - rather, it's fully indicative of what's happening far-to-often (albeit in different ways) throughout corporate boardrooms all over America, and the world.

By the way, the sum total of all those bad corporate boardroom actions doesn't represent a grand conspiracy. Generally, corporate directors are good people - they're very smart, and driven. Many of them do a great deal of good for their fellow human beings. I'm sure that those at the core of the current HP problem are basically good people.

The problem arises when good people somehow come to think that they are above law, and immune to normal constraints of behavior and accountability.

When that happens, that 'attitude' - the sense that "anything goes" - begins to seep into the general culture at large. That's not a good thing.

Like it or not, those who have made it to the top of our various institutions must realize that their positions and decisions for actions-of-a-certain-kind have large consequences.

HP is a corporation that for decades has set standards in, and has been a model for, corporate governance. It's a corporation that is one of the bedrock organizations in one of the most high profile technology centers in the world.

Someone(s) was given the priviliege and responsibility to maintain HP, and all it means to thousands of HP employees, and other corporate directors who have looked up to HP as a model.

Whoever broke this trust (and probably, the law) deserves a consequence sufficient to make anyone else thinking about doing the same thing, or generally vilating a massive trust, think twice.

This doesn't diminish the problems you pointed out in your post; it's only to say that the HP problem, and problems like it, if permitted to go unchecked can have dire consequences for more than just the one or a few people on a corporate board who have temporarily forgotten what they're their for.

Like the HP problem, the problems you mention bear watching, action, and resolution in favor of those who are (and have been) victimized) Thanks for the heads up.




Posted by resident, a resident of Green Acres
on Sep 20, 2006 at 3:30 pm

If any normal person reported exactly this experience to the state attorney general, s/he would be told -- with a yawn -- that it's a civil matter, not for the state, go get a lawyer. Unlike most normal citizens, the people involved in this HP business can afford lawyers. Let them clean up their own house.

Everyone involved on the government side, from Congress down, has far more important things to do with their time and limited resources. This is like asking the SF police department to stop all work on violent crime and instead put all their efforts into some important person's jaywalking issue. Yeah, against the law, and if jaywalking was the worst thing anyone did most days, then sure. But right now, this is just a ridiculous red herring.

If I might suggest just one thing Congress might do instead, it would be to investigate the, um, billions of dollars that have been wasted and stolen by shoddy contractors in Iraq (whose malfeasance has everything to do with how well that conflict is being waged -- and resolved -- and how much danger our troops face).


If you were a member and logged in you could track comments from this story.

Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Veggie Grill coming soon to Mountain View's San Antonio Center
By Elena Kadvany | 21 comments | 3,360 views

Is HBO's Silicon Valley Any Good?
By Anita Felicelli | 23 comments | 2,203 views

Finding mentors in would-be bosses
By Jessica T | 0 comments | 1,918 views

PAUSD Leadership Challenges
By Paul Losch | 23 comments | 1,700 views

A memorable Paly prom
By Sally Torbey | 7 comments | 1,094 views