IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

HP settles spying scandal claims

Hewlett-Packard Co. reached a financial settlement with The New York Times and three BusinessWeek journalists who were spied on as part of the company's boardroom surveillance scheme, the company said late Wednesday.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Hewlett-Packard Co. reached a financial settlement with The New York Times and three BusinessWeek journalists who were spied on as part of the company's boardroom surveillance scheme, the company said late Wednesday.

The Palo Alto-based company declined to comment on the dollar figure attached to the settlement, as did the lawyer representing the Times, one of its reporters, John Markoff, and BusinessWeek reporters Peter Burrows, Ben Elgin and Roger Crockett. HP said the parties donated some or all of the money to charity.

The settlement ties up one of the remaining threads left hanging from the spying scandal, which erupted in September 2006 after the technology company revealed it secretly examined the private telephone logs of journalists, board members and HP employees to identify the source of leaks to the media.

Investigators hired by HP used a technique called "pretexting" _ pretending to be someone you're not _ to fool telephone companies into handing over personal cell phone and home phone records.

The scandal led to the ouster of Chairwoman Patricia Dunn and criminal charges in California against Dunn and four private investigators. Those charges were later dropped, but one investigator, Bryan Wagner, was charged in federal court and pleaded guilty to identity theft and conspiracy. He's awaiting sentencing.

"What HP did here was try and interfere with the free press," Terry Gross, the journalists' San Francisco-based attorney, said Wednesday, the day the settlement was finalized. "They engaged in these illegal activities to interfere with legitimate newsgathering. ... Their whole purpose was to obtain the trade secrets of the newspapers and of the journalists _ the identities of their sources."

HP said in a statement that the issue was "resolved to the mutual satisfaction of the parties, and we are pleased to put this matter behind us."

The settlement, however, does not resolve lawsuits brought by another group of journalists whose phone records were also compromised in HP's probe.

Five separate lawsuits claiming "illegal and reprehensible conduct" were filed in August in San Francisco Superior Court against HP, Dunn and Kevin Hunsaker, the company's former ethics chief.

The plaintiffs in those lawsuits, which are still pending, include three reporters from online media company CNET Networks Inc.'s News.com _ Dawn Kawamoto, Stephen Shankland and Tom Krazit _ and one former reporter from The Associated Press _ Rachel Konrad, who is Shankland's wife. Other plaintiffs are Kawamoto's husband, Jon Kawamoto, and Shankland's parents, Thomas and Rebecca Shankland.

Separately, HP agreed in December 2006 to pay $14.5 million in a civil settlement with California's Attorney General, most of which was slated to fund investigations into privacy rights and intellectual property violations.