The HP Saga: Counterattack

11 Sep ’06

Today brings more news but little new to the HP saga, save that no decision has been made yet, and that Dunn has gone on the attack, taking shots at Perkins that are unresponsive to the complaints against her, but seemingly calculated to instead merely distract or deflect criticism:

“The investigation was a Pattie Dunn program, 100 percent — conceived and managed by her, and unknown to the board, except perhaps in the most vague and imprecise terms, with the possible exception of Mark, who she may have briefed,” Perkins wrote in the e-mail obtained by the Mercury News, referring to HP CEO Mark Hurd.

When asked about that, Dunn responded by portraying Perkins as a liar.

“Tom is wrong. He knew about the investigation,” Dunn said. “He himself posed arguably more aggressive methods. He advocated very strongly to me that we use lie detectors.”

Dunn said Perkins “believed the culprit was a member of management.” But she said that when he learned “the culprit was his friend and ally on the board Jay Keyworth,” Perkins changed his tune and asked her to handle the investigation with him “offline.”

The investigation fingered Keyworth as the leak, and the board asked him to resign but he refused. HP said it will not renominate him when his term is up next year.

“Tom is very upset with me because I didn’t go along with his desire to cover this up. He wanted Jay’s identity to be kept secret,” Dunn said. “Tom is a very powerful, very formidable individual to have as an enemy. I regret that very much, but I could never have done it the way he wanted it to be done.

The essence of Dunn’s comments appears to be that Perkins wanted an investigation using lie detector tests, and that Perkins improperly wanted to keep the results of Dunn’s investigation quiet when he learned the result. Very Peyton Place, but hardly responsive to the question of whether Dunn acted properly by ordering an investigation that she knew or should have known would use pretexting or other improper methods, and whether she appropriately supervised the investigation once it was undertaken. To extend the cookie jar analogy I used yesterday, this smells more like “I may have taken a cookie, but Tommy did too” than anything else; an attempt perhaps, to the extent the board discussions are characterized by competing Perkins and Dunn factions, to engage in a personality contest and win over votes now in the Perkins camp.

One other point. Is it in fact “arguably more aggressive” than a secret program of surveiling the personal phone records of directors and the media to propose, in a Board beset by leakage, that directors take a confidential lie detector test as a condition of renomination?

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