15:01 PM

Crimes in high places? HP's internal investigation possibly broke law, as Dunn sought out leaker, leading to Perkins' resignation and Keyworth's ouster

By Richard Koman for SiliconValleyWatcher

Leaks from HP's board of directors so angered HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn that she initiated a secret investigation into which directors were responsible for the leak - over the objections of HP director Tom Perkins (of Kleiner Perkins fame), News.com reports.

Perkins told Dunn not to launch an investigation but just to ask the directors if they were responsible for the leak. But, write News.com reporters Dawn Kawamoto and Tom Krazit, Perkins was "stunned" to learn that Dunn proceeded with the investigation anyway and has resigned in protest.

And the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the investigation has identified George Keyworth, a 20-year HP veteran, as the source of the leak. Keyworth was asked to resign at a May 18 meeting and refused. Now HP says they will not re-nominate him.

And in even more turmoil, News.com reports that California's attorney general and federal investigators suspect HP of obtaining information on directors' telephone calls by fraud and deception. California law prohibits anyone from making statements known to be "untrue or misleading," with violations punishable by six months in prison and fines of $2,500.

HP is due to file documents with the SEC as early as today providing more details on Perkins' resignation, and Perkins is requesting that HP be more forthcoming about the reasons.

Perkins, over the last several months, had expressed concern to HP over its alleged actions in securing telephone logs of his private residence and of his long-distance calls, sources said. Perkins requested information from AT&T on whether his local and long-distance accounts had been accessed and was informed that, indeed, information had been obtained in January and in early February, according to sources.

Newsweek tells the story with more panache:

On May 18, at HP headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Dunn sprung her bombshell on the board: she had found the leaker. According to Tom Perkins, an HP director who was present, Dunn laid out the surveillance scheme and pointed out the offending director, who acknowledged being the CNET leaker. That director, whose identity has not yet been publicly disclosed, apologized. But the director then said to fellow directors, “I would have told you all about this. Why didn’t you just ask?” That director was then asked to leave the boardroom, and did so, according to Perkins.

Close to 90 minutes of heated debate followed, but Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, says he was the only director who rose to take Dunn on directly. Perkins says he was enraged at the surveillance, which he called illegal, unethical and a misplaced corporate priority on Dunn’s part. In an interview with NEWSWEEK, Perkins says he was particularly annoyed since he chaired the HP board’s Nominating and Governance Committee and had not been informed by Dunn of the surveillance, even though, he says, she had told him for months that she was attempting to discover the source of the leak.

According to that story, HP has so far refused to provide to the SEC the reasons for Perkins' departure - despite legal requirements to do so. HP has so far relied on technicalities - that Perkins didn't give his reasons for resigning - that seem far-fetched.

Valley watchers will be checking out HP's 8-K filing on Perkins carefully today. But now that the story is out, it's pretty clear that Keyworth and Perkins aren't the only ones out at HP. Dunn's days are clearly numbered.