HP Executives Testify Before Congress About Spying

Hewlett-Packard's Chief Executive Officer Mark Hurd and its former chairwoman, Patricia Dunn, are expected to testify before a Congressional subcommittee Thursday. The House Energy and Commerce subcommittee is investigating HP's spying on board members.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And the scandal at Hewlett Packard hasn't hurt its stock price, which has held steady for the past few weeks. Still, HP's chief executive has some explaining to do when he testifies today before a Senate subcommittee.

It wants to know how HP investigators wired in and spied on the company's own board of directors. The company's former chairwoman, who resigned last week, is also slated to appear.

NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY: CEO Mark Hurd says there's an age-old explanation for why a company like HP violated the privacy of its own board members and reporters. The end came to justify the means.

Hurd's prepared testimony to a House subcommittee says HP's investigators became so focused on finding the source of boardroom news leaks, they lost sight of their values. They also may have lost sight of the law.

Former chairwoman Patricia Dunn will ask lawmakers to provide a bright line of what companies can and cannot do when investigating news leaks. Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette says Congress could draw some lines more clearly, with an explicit ban, for example, on impersonating someone to get their phone records.

While some of HP's tactics may have been illegal, DeGette says, others were merely sleazy.

Representative DIANA DEGETTE (Democrat, Colorado): It really is the stuff of made-for-TV movies: having board members followed, having their country homes under surveillance, trying to lure reporters into divulging sources and so on. It really seems to be over the top.

HORSLEY: Congress has subpoenaed a number of outside contractors who are thought to have played a role in HP's spying. HP's global security manager and the Boston investigator who ran the leak probe are also on the witness list. But DeGette says they're both expected to take the Fifth.

Scott Horsley, NPR News.

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