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HP's Dunn will testify to US House committee

Pretexting scandal moves into next phase

HP chairman Patricia Dunn will answer questions about the spying scandal that has embroiled her company during a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill, at the heart of the US government in Washington DC. The hearing will take place next week.

HP's general counsel, Ann Baskins, will also appear at the hearing of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, being held next Thursday, said HP spokesman Ryan Donovan.

HP's lead outside counsel, Larry Sonsini of the law firm Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, will also testify, according to Terry Lane, a committee spokesman. Sonsini advised HP on the legality of its investigation into media leaks of details from the company's board meetings between 2005 and 2006.

Earlier this month, HP revealed it had hired outside investigators to find the leaker and that they had impersonated the subjects of their investigation in order to gain access to private telephone records. In the course of the search, HP board members and reporters were impersonated.

The committee is looking into HP's methods and is considering federal legislation that would make this practice, known as 'pretexting', illegal.

HP is also being investigated by the Attorneys General of both California and Massachusetts, the FBI and the US Attorney's office.

Ronald DeLia of investigation firm Security Outsourcing Solutions is also set to appear, but Lane said it is possible he will invoke his Fifth Amendment right to not testify to protect against self-incrimination. Prosecutors reportedly are looking into DeLia's company and an investigation company, Action Research Group, in connection with the scandal.

In a 11 June Congressional hearing on pretexting, several investigators invoked their Fifth Amendment rights and refused to answer questions on the practice, which is considered to be in a legal grey area.

The committee has also asked HP Global Security Manager Anthony Gentilucci and Action Research Group owner Joe Depante to testify, but has not heard back from them, Lane said.

HP has already provided the committee with "thousands of pages of documents" in connection with its investigation, Lane said.

The pretexting scandal has been front page news for several weeks now and has forced Dunn to step down from her chairman's role, effective January. But it has not had much of an effect on the company's financial performance. HP's stock has hovered in the $36 (about £19) range since news of the affair first broke three weeks ago.

HP executive vice president Vyomesh Joshi, who runs the company's printing business, downplayed the effect that the scandal was having on HP's management. "I think our focus is business," he said in response to a question on the matter at the Bank of America's Annual Investment Conference in San Francisco yesterday. "We have a very solid team who is focusing on the business, focusing on the execution. At the end of the day, that is what we want to do."


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