HP and Pretexting Back in 2006 Hewlett Essay

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HP and Pretexting

Back in 2006, Hewlett Packard's management got themselves into both legal and public relations trouble by the way in which they decided to investigate the source of leaks from their Board of Directors to the news media. The case brings about questions about confidentiality and ownership of personal information, its worth and the accountability not only of those who get hold of the information dishonestly, but also those who hire them. In the end, it brings up a lot of questions about how to conduct inside and outside examinations in general (Rasch, 2006).

Patricia Dunn was born in Burbank, California. She grew up in Las Vegas where her parents were employed in the casino industry. After her father passed away, she and her family moved to California where Dunn got a degree in journalism. After college, Dunn worked as a secretary at Barclays Global Investors, where she eventually came to serve as CEO from 1995 to 2002. She became a director at computing giant Hewlett-Packard in 1998 and followed Carly Fiorina as nonexecutive chairman of the company in 2005. A year later, Dunn resigned her position after getting a criminal indictment coming from the debate regarding her attempt to look at board-level leaks to reporters (Patricia Dunn Biography, 2011).

According to the criminal case, HP hired third-party investigators to get the personal phone records of HP board members and several reporters. Under California law it is unlawful to utilize dishonesty to get hold of private records of people, and in October 2006 Dunn and four others were charged with four felony counts including fraudulent use of wire, radio or television transmissions; taking, copying, and utilizing computer data without permission; identity theft; and conspiracy (Rasch, 2006).

This whole thing started when some Board members leaked information about the organization to the media. In reply, HP administration hired a law firm, which in turn hired an investigator which in turn hired another investigator to look into the basis of the leaks. These investigators turned to a long-established and ethically unsure practice known as pretexting (Rasch, 2006).

Pretexting is basically lying to get information that one wants, or to get someone to do something one wants them to do. In the HP case, it is probable that the investigator called the telephone companies making believe to be the consumer and asked for a copy of the telephone records of calls made and received. In its labors to establish the source of the leaks, HP evidently went even further, trying to plant spyware onto a CNET reporter's computer. According to The New York Times, private investigators functioning for HP, represented themselves as a nameless tipster, e-mailed a manuscript to a CNET reporter, implanted with software that was supposed to trace who the manuscript was forwarded to. The software did not work, though, and the reporter never wrote any story based on the false manuscript (Rasch, 2006).

The company has admitted that they investigated its own directors in an effort to figure out who was leaking company information, after HP Chairman Patricia Dunn was infuriated by a CNET News.com story about HP's long-range strategic plans. Nonetheless, the outside firm utilized by HP in its examination appeared to have utilized a divisive method called pretexting to achieve admission to its directors' phone records. Pretexting is against the law under federal law with regards to monetary records, but the law at this time was murky when it came to telephone records. HP claimed that pretexting was not in general unlawful, but that it couldn't for sure say that the agencies it engaged to track down the source of the leak remained within the boundaries of the law (Krazit, 2006).

Pretexting for monetary data is a federal offense under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act. At the time of the HP scandal, the legality of pretexting for other kinds of information, such as for phone records, was thought to be a legal gray area. At the time under federal law, pretexting might have fallen within the forbidding of wire or computer fraud. In 2007, the Federal Trade Commission made it official, in an effort to stop pretexting, they charged five internet companies with violating Section 5 of the FTC Act, which forbids unfair or deceiving acts in business practices. State law crimes concerning fraud and identify theft-related laws may also be utilized to prosecute pretexters (The Truth behind Pretexting: In-house Investigations and Professional Responsibility Concerns, 2007).

While pretexting for phone records is now a federal crime, it was not so apparent when the HP scandal took place. In addition, pretexting is an ongoing issue, beyond phone records. The HP scandal, consequently, is a prompt to lawyers and investigators that behavior that is legal may not automatically be ethical. The profession's admiration necessitates that truthfulness, honesty and candor is the core values of the legal profession. The utilization of pretexting in corporate examinations headed by an attorney may possible violate an attorney's duty of truthfulness and management and may lead to professional punishment. Furthermore, the utilization of pretexting may infringe the attorney-client defense. Thus, when looked at closely, the truth behind pretexting becomes obvious. It really isn't worth it in the end (The Truth behind Pretexting: In-house Investigations and Professional Responsibility Concerns, 2007).

Hewlett-Packard utilized both its technical and monetary assets in their spy campaign. The company installed a special observation system to capture messages sent by company workers using AOL Instant Messaging, spying even on its own public relations workers, those hired specially for the job of upholding contact with the press. The company spent well over a quarter-million dollars for the leak exploration, for costs ranging from physical observation including trash re-con of all areas, background investigations of board members, their relatives, the targeted reporters, and numerous HP workers (Martin, 2006).

The basic code of lying explains the general proscription against pretexting. The true concern lies in the extent of invasion and the kind of information that may be gotten a hold of by way of dishonesty. Simply put, an investigator may be prohibited from tricking subjects into saying or doing things that they would not otherwise say or do in their regular affairs. Furthermore, investigators cannot employ excessive methods of gathering information, such as breaking and entering, actionable invasions of privacy, and unfair searches and seizures. These severe and now illegal methods in the end reflect poorly on a company's fitness and weaken the public's faith in the corporate world (Bennett, n.d.).

Ethics is founded on a set of moral and ethical values. These values must be unconditional in that they must be taken sincerely enough to supersede any human explanation, limitation, personality, or individual mistakes. When all else is unsuccessful, one will forever look back to these foundation values to direct them. Regrettably, life is not that simple and there's forever difference about what values should be in control. In the business world executives must lead by example. Good ethics should be most obvious at the top and every worker should be responsible to the same regulations (Putnam, 2002).

Corporate values or ethics initiative must be preached assertively within an organization. Every discussion and medium should be utilized to spread the superior message. Certainly, it will only be believable if the company is practicing what it preaches. Training must be made available to get all employees on the same page. It's easy to overlook a motivational speech or pass by a poster, but spending time studying about the matters will have a lasting force. Employees and the organization must be in it for the long tow. The ethics dedication should expand to the next cohort of workers. The longer it lasts, the more embedded the main beliefs will become (Putnam, 2002).

Although all the criminal charges that were brought against Patricia Dunn were dropped there is not doubt that her behavior was anything but ethical. Top executives are supposed to be the face of companies and if the top execs are acting as she did they what does that say for the company as a whole.

Corporations have a sense of reasonability to their employees, their customers and most of all to their shareholders. These are people who have invested their hard earned money into this company thinking that they were investing in an ethically and financially sound company. If a company turns out not be ethically sound then one wonders how financially sound they are as well. Everything that company executives do reflects on the reputation of the entire company. And this is something that they all need to think about as they carry out their day-to-day business activities.

In regards to Patricia Dunn and her position at HP she most certainly should have been made to resign. Her actions were not good for the reputation of company and did not portray the face that the company wanted to the outside world. If the company could be that manipulative with their own employees who would they treat their customers or shareholders. What Dunn did…[continue]

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