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HP bosses ousted by 'disinformation'

Former chief exec and chairman pinpoint Perkins

Former HP chairmen Patricia Dunn and Carly Fiorina have each cited board member Thomas Perkins as an instigator behind their ousting from the technology company. The comments were made in interviews on a US TV news programme on Sunday.

Dunn and Fiorina made their comments in separate segments on the CBS News programme 60 Minutes. Dunn responded to felony charges filed against her and four other defendants in a California court last week for the alleged use of illegal tactics to probe boardroom leaks to news media. Fiorina was talking about her book on her HP tenure, Tough Decisions: A Memoir, which is being published this week.

Dunn told correspondent Lesley Stahl that Perkins, of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, launched a campaign to force Dunn off the board over the manner in which she conducted an investigation of boardroom leaks. "It was a classic disinformation campaign and he set the mindset for basically everything that’s believed about this [case] right now," Dunn said.

Dunn initiated an investigation of leaks to the media in 2005 and a second one in 2006, in which HP hired outside private investigators who allegedly used false pretences to gain access to phone records of company directors, some employees and journalists.

Perkins did not comment for 60 Minutes, but Stahl reported that a spokesman for Perkins said he talked to people with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the US Department of Justice and the California Attorney General's office to complain about the tactics used in the leak investigation.

Dunn claims Perkins turned against her when she wanted to identify his board ally George Keyworth as the director who leaked news of board deliberations to a reporter in January. She says Perkins wanted the identity of the leaker kept confidential but she wouldn't agree to that. Perkins, Keyworth and Dunn have all since resigned from the board of the company.

Fiorina, who was fired as chairman, president and CEO of HP in February 2005, told Stahl she believes Perkins and Keyworth were behind her ousting as well.

Fiorina said she initiated her own investigation of board leaks in early 2005 after The Wall Street Journal reported that the board was considering an HP reorganisation plan that would have stripped Fiorina of some of her powers. Perkins acknowledged being the second source for the Journal story, confirming information the reporter gained from another source, Stahl reported.

Fiorina said, of Perkins and Keyworth: "Both of them were aligned in how they thought I should reorganise the business."

Keyworth, other directors and HP also declined to comment for 60 Minutes.

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