Twist in HP saga; Dunn says Perkins wanted "more aggressive" measures

The outcome of the HP furor is still unknown. The HP board met on Sunday, but there were no decisions made.

Here’s a summary of what has emerged over the weekend.

Chairwoman Patricia Dunn has defended herself against criticism of the investigation she oversaw, which included “pretexting,” or grabbing phone records of board members and journalists while pretending to be someone else, and without the targeted person’s knowledge. She says fellow board member, Tom Perkins, who has called for her resignation, is wrong. Here’s what she told the Mercury News:

“Tom is wrong. He knew about the investigation. . . . He advocated very strongly to me that we use lie detectors. He knew about the investigation because . . . he advocated even more aggressive means, arguably, than were being used during which time he believed the culprit was a member of management.”

We scratched our head at this too. But then you read that statement carefully, and you’ll see that Dunn is being very careful about the timing in her wording. Perkins may have advocated more aggressive means, but this was apparently before he found out about the pretexting — because she is referring to back when he believed the culprit of the leaks was a member of management. That was apparently before the methods of the investigation were disclosed to the board, and the culprit of the leaks was instead found to be board member Jay Keyworth.

So Dunn explains that when Perkins learned “the culprit was his friend and ally on the board Jay Keyworth,'” he changed his tune and asked her to handle the investigation with him “offline.”

“Tom is very upset with me because I didn’t go along with his desire to cover this up. He wanted Jay’s identity to be kept secret,'” Dunn said. “Tom is a very powerful, very formidable individual to have as an enemy. I regret that very much, but I could never have done it the way he wanted it to be done.”

So she is now making this out to be an old boy’s network thing, which is intriguing.

And then there’s this story in the Merc, about how powerful outside lawyer Larry Sonsini told Perkins that the investigation was legal (see the links, too, showing exact email correspondence). And if you read through both stories, you will see that there are many people involved, and it really is unclear how much Dunn was tracking the exact investigation methods being used.

Yes, we want the buck to stop somewhere, and someone to take the blame, but sometimes things are gray.

So on Sunday, even the board — with Dunn and Keyworth recusing themselves from discussions — couldn’t make a decision on whether to oust Dunn.

The NYT has a piece today, quoting someone who obviously wasn’t part of the board meeting Sunday, as saying there’s a strong chance Dunn will be forced out, but the reference is vague enough for us to think this is far from decisive. There are lots of personal agendas in this struggle. Here’s the NYT:

A person with knowledge of some portions of yesterday’s board meeting said that there was a strong chance that Ms. Dunn — who recused herself from some of yesterday’s discussions — would have to step down. A company spokesman would not comment last night on that assertion.

By the way, here is the response from Perkins about the charges by Dunn. Perkins is out sailing on his boat through all this, but his spokesman, Mark Corallo, said:

That is absolutely untrue. . . . He certainly did not advocate any investigation and was adamantly opposed to investigating the board members. Ms. Dunn is trying to shift the focus away from her authorizing an invasive and illegitimate investigation that she oversaw.”