HP chairman to leave immediately

Hewlett-Packard chairman Patricia Dunn has resigned with immediate effect amid allegations of illegal spying by the US computer firm.

Chief executive Mark Hurd said he had accepted the offer from Ms Dunn, who had earlier indicated she would leave in January over the scandal.

Mr Hurd described methods used by HP to try and identify who was behind boardroom leaks as “very disturbing”.

The under-fire boss will take over from Ms Dunn as chairman.

And later this month he will give evidence to the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee in Washington.

A report from HP’s lawyers on how the internal inquiry was conducted revealed that surveillance had been carried out on journalists.

E-mails with tracer systems had also been set up to try and lead the company to the source of the leak.

It revealed that HP’s investigators had “intruded” into the personal lives of seven directors, nine journalists and two employees as well as the family of those people.

Plans, including a PowerPoint presentation, had also been drawn up for possible undercover investigations at the offices of media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal.

However HP said there had been no evidence that these proposals had been executed.

It was said that Ms Dunn had ordered and authorised the investigation, but she has said she did not appreciate the extremes investigators had gone to.

“Now that we know the depth of what has transpired, I take full accountability to drive the actions to set it right,” Mr Hurd said as he faced the media for the first time since the scandal broke, but refused to answer questions.

“I extend my sincerest apologies to those journalists who were investigated and to everyone who was impacted,” he added.

HP shares gained 0.7% to $34.62 on Friday having fallen 5% on Thursday on speculation that the investigation was focusing on the possibility that Mr Hurd may have known about the alleged actions.

But while the scandal is tarnishing the computer- and printer-maker’s reputation, Mr Hurd said he expected the firm’s operations would “remain untouched by this whole thing”.

Hewlett-Packard has admitted that investigators hired to look into the leaks obtained phone call records of HP board members, staff and journalists by pretending to be them.

The practice – known as “pretexting” – is a common one among private investigators but tests the limits of California state laws.

Prosecutors believe it violates laws covering identity theft and unauthorised access to computer data.

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