Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

HP's Baskins quits, won't testify today

Posted by Richard Koman - September 28, 2006

HP general counsel Ann O. Baskins has resigned from HP and will not testify at today's congressional hearings, her lawyer said, The Times reports. Hearing start at 10 am EST.

Baskins was intimately involved in the HP's anti-leak probes. She assigned Kevin Hunsaker, HP's senior counsel for ethics, to run the investigation. Hunsaker clearly received warnings from security officials that the pretexting operations were probably illegal, and Baskins would have been apprised of that information as well.

The Washington Post recounts several emails that show that Hunsaker - and thus, presumably, Baskins - knew about the illegality.

In February, HP global security investigator Vince Nye told a Boston colleague working with him on the leak probe that he had "serious reservations" about how they were obtaining phone-record information in an internal probe to ferret out the source of media leaks.

He said he thought the method, impersonating someone else to trick the phone company into providing call data, "is very unethical at the least and probably illegal."

"I am requesting that we cease this phone number gathering method immediately and discount any of its information," Nye wrote in a Feb. 7 e-mail to Gentilucci, one of four members of the internal investigative team reporting to HP's legal department. Nye sent a copy of the e-mail to Hunsaker, then HP's chief ethics director and superviser of the probe.

Baskins' actions are also very suspicious in that she asked for legal opinion on the legality of the program not from Wilson Sonsini but from Ron DeLia's lawyer. DeLia was the investigator that former chairman Pattie Dunn initially worked with. That smacks, IMO, of CYA legal advice, not of an inquiry genuinely interested in knowing the answer.

Dunn will say in her testimony today that she relied on DeLia's assurances that it was legal. Again, the question remains, if she or Baskins were so interested in the actual answer, why would they rely on private eye DeLia rather than Larry Sonsini or any other top-line law firm in the country?

Baskins may also be implicated in charges of lying to the SEC for filing 8-Ks that at first neglected to give a reason for Tom Perkins' resignation, and then misrepresented that he didn't give a reason for his resignation.

The resignation suggests that Baskins is facing criminal charges in the case and that her lawyer advised her not to speak publicly, for fear of incriminating herself.

HP press release:

“I want to thank Ann for 24 years of outstanding service and devotion to HP,” said Mark Hurd, HP chairman and chief executive officer. “She began her career here shortly after law school and worked her way up to serve as the company’s top lawyer, earning along the way a reputation for hard work and integrity. She has admirably supported our business needs across the globe and will be missed. Stepping down was a very hard decision for her, but by doing so she has put the interests of HP above her own and that is to be commended.”

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