Unauthorized Disclosure: Hewlett-Packard’s Secret Surveillance of Directors and Journalists

Case Solution

Anne T. Lawrence, Randall D. Harris, Sally Baack
North American Case Research Association (NACRA) ()

In 2006, HewlettPackard (HP) admitted to hiring outside investigators to spy on board members and journalists to discover the source of several leaked confidential board advisory services. The researchers used methods, including “pretense” (using a feigned identity to access other people’s phone records) that were potentially illegal and almost certainly unethical. In this case, company emails, internal reports, meeting minutes, and published memoirs and interviews are used to present various perspectives on the HP leak investigation, including from the non-executive chairman, the CEO , the former CEO, the board members, the manager, and the investigator. What problem was HP trying to solve? Did the behavior of the board of directors comply with recognized standards of good corporate governance? Were the research methods ethical? What, if anything, should the company and its president Patricia Dunn have done differently? How could new HP CEO Mark Hurd ensure effective corporate governance and ethical behavior in the future?

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