HP legal team under fire from California attorney general

Hewlett Packard’s in-house legal function and senior management is bracing itself for an investigation by California’s attorney general.

In a US television interview on Tuesday night, California attorney general Bill Lockyer said: “People’s identities were taken falsely, and it’s a crime. People accessed computer records that had personal information. That’s a crime.”

The probe follows Hewlett Packard (HP)’s own investigation into boardroom leaks dating back to 2005 to journalists.

It transpires that senior figures at HP, including chairwoman Patricia Dunn who offered to resign in January because of the scandal, authorised a private detective company to search for the source of the boardroom leaks.

This company then hired a second, which used “pretexting,” the fraudulent use of another’s identity, to obtain private phone records of its board members.

HP’s general counsel Ann Baskins, who has been an in-house lawyer at the company for 24 years, oversaw the investigation.

HP’s preferred outside counsel, Larry Sonsini of Wilson Sonsini wrote in an e-mail in June: “The investigation was run by the HP legal department with outside experts. I am sure that Ann Baskins looked into the legality of every step of the inquiry and was satisfied that it was conducted properly.”

HP released a statement saying that Baskins was still general counsel of the company and that it would not comment further.