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War of words in HP scandal

Attorney for ousted HP chairman fires back

The attorney for ousted HP chairman Patricia Dunn has fired back at public comments made by board rival Thomas Perkins about the HP pretexting scandal.

"Mr. Perkins...has made the biggest mistake of his career. He is a bully, and he is bullying the wrong people," wrote James Brosnahan, attorney for Dunn, in a statement in response to what Brosnahan called a "gratuitous attack" on his client in a speech Perkins gave Tuesday in San Francisco.

In an appearance at the VentureOne Outlook Conference, a gathering of venture capitalists, Perkins said the HP dispute about how to control leaks of board deliberations to the media was really a fight for control of the board, which Dunn won, according to media reports of his speech.

Perkins also lamented that many corporate boards, including HP's, have turned from being "guidance" boards into "compliance" boards. Rather than advising the company on how to run its business as a "guidance" style director, "compliance" directors are increasingly focused on maintaining compliance with US Securities and Exchange Commission regulations governing publicly traded companies. He described Dunn as a compliance style director, according to the reports.

Dunn was indicted in October 2006 on four felony counts in California state court for authorising an investigation into HP board member leaks to the media. Investigators hired by HP allegedly used false pretences, or ‘pretexting’, to get phone companies to divulge calling records for people they were investigating. A former legal counsel for HP and two private detectives hired by HP are also facing trial.

The scandal broke in September 2006 because Perkins demanded the company publicly state, in an SEC filing, why he quit the board four months earlier.

Because the state case is still awaiting trial, Dunn can't directly respond to Perkins' remarks, but her attorney had plenty to say.

"Mr Perkins generated an attack on Patricia Dunn, hired lawyers, hired a public relations firm and all because his colleague on the Hewlett-Packard board [Jay Keyworth] was found to be leaking information. Now he is attempting to further prejudice the public against Patricia Dunn," Brosnahan wrote.

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