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  D.F.'s Column Archive

September 13, 2006

From Carly to Crank Calls, HP’s CEO Weirdness Continues


When last we left Hewlett-Packard, the computer products company had seen enough of boss lady Carly Fiorina, who left the lasting impression of herself prancing on stage with Gwen Stefani while a product was launching but sales and shareholder value were tanking.


No more of this! So said the board. We need a serious boss lady.


Oh, they got one. Her name is Patricia Dunn, and she is very serious. So serious, in fact, that when she suspected an HP board member was leaking confidential company information to a member of the news media, she resolved to do something about it.


And what an interesting something she – or someone – came up with.


You want to find out who’s talking? Get their phone records.


How do we do that, boss?


We’re Hewlett-Packard! We just ask and they give it to us!


Uh, boss . . .


OK, so let’s think of something. I know! We call the phone company, pretend to be our board members and all these reporters they might be talking to, then say, “So will you give me their, I mean my, personal phone records please? Why? Oh, no reason.”


Yeah. That’ll work. Wait. That did work!


The HP investigators not only got the phone records of the board members, but of nine journalists as well – writers for the Wall Street Journal, Business Week, and several other major organizations.


(Note to self: Call Vinnie’s Pizza. Identify self as Bill Gates. Order 56 pizzas and say “Put it on my tab.” But I digress.)


Whether Ms. Dunn actually came up with this idea, or merely allowed it, or merely failed to question where the information came from, she’s clearly no Carly. You pull nonsense when Patricia’s running the show, the HP Gestapo is put on the case.


Unfortunately for Dunn, now Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL) is on the case. Sen. Durbin has been known to wax indignant over mistreatment of terrorists that never even happened. Imagine what he’s going to do when you crank-call the phone company and trick them into telling you stuff you’re not supposed to know.


He’ll, he’ll . . . write a nasty letter to the attorney general!


Meanwhile, the California attorney general and the Federal Communications Commission are starting their own investigations.


Scary? Well, it’s scary enough for the HP board, which is now longing for the days when its biggest problem was a CEO who thought she could do harmonies for No Doubt.


So they conferenced via phone and decided that Dunn is done. Via phone? You’d think they’d meet in a coffee shop or something, I mean, considering, but I suppose the creamers could be bugged.


Oh, did I mention that HP’s unusual investigation appears to have nabbed the culprit? Apparently George Keyworth II is the board member who was giving away company secrets to the media. The company is punishing him by not letting him run for re-election when his term is up. But in the meantime, he got to have a role in the ouster of the Chairwoman who oversaw his exposure – all by way of the weirdest corporate investigation since they put Prince Albert In A Can.


Hello? Do you have Patricia Dunn running your company? Well let her out!


© 2006 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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