Opinion: A demand for immediate and full disclosure

Reports that HP targeted nine journalists' phone records 'couldn't be any more disturbing,' says editor Don Tennant

The news that Hewlett-Packard Co.'s hired guns used unethical -- and very possibly illegal -- methods to obtain the phone records of nine journalists as part of an investigation of boardroom leaks couldn't be any more disturbing.

At this writing, the identities of four of those journalists haven't been publicly disclosed, and it's unclear whether those journalists have been or will be informed. So those of us who have covered the activities of HP's board, especially as they relate to the resignation of former CEO Carly Fiorina, naturally wonder if we're on the list.

In my case, I wrote an editorial in February 2005 in which I took a tongue-in-cheek approach in expressing my opinion on Fiorina's dismissal. Here's an excerpt:

I would just love to have been in the room when Carly Fiorina got the word that she was getting the boot. I have a hunch the discussion with Hewlett-Packard's board went something like this:

Board Member 1: "Good morning, Carly. You're probably wondering why we called you here this morning. ... Pat, do you want to take it from here?"

Board Member 2: "Um ... sure. You see, Carly, the thing is, as you know, things haven't been going all that well for us lately, and ... well ... um ... Dick, you expressed it well during the dry run ..."

Board Member 3: "Right. Carly, you know we love you, but these gosh-darn shareholders keep asking why in the heck we can't seem to get our act together and start making them the money we promised we would when we went after Compaq. I mean, you can't blame them ... you know ... Lucy, why don't you jump in here?"

Board Member 4: "Thanks, Dick ... Carly, maybe it will help if I tell you a story about when I was a little girl ..."

And so on. You just know it had to be mighty tough to drop that particular bomb. Fiorina is tough as nails, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to be on her bad side.

While it couldn't be any more obvious that my approach was satirical, I can't help but wonder whether there might have been some tension-releasing banter among some of the board members prior to their meeting with Fiorina, and whether that banter might have been similar enough to what I wrote to raise someone's suspicions. It's a stretch, I know. But until all the names of the reporters on the list are released, as they absolutely need to be, I'll be feeling a twinge of discomfort.

I'm much more uncomfortable about the thought of Patrick Thibodeau, the Computerworld reporter who covers HP, being on the list. More than anything right now, I want an assurance from HP and from the California attorney general that he's not. And I want to hear from HP CEO Mark Hurd exactly what's being done to ensure nothing like this happens again.

See more coverage:

  •  HP says chairman has no plans to resign over leaks investigation

  •  HP: 'No Surprise'

  •  Reporters' phone records accessed by HP during leak probe

  •  California AG probing HP boardroom leaks

  •  SEC filing shows board infighting, leaks at HP

What do you think of HP's boardroom changes? Share your thoughts or read what others have to say on the Sound Off blog.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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