HP has been accused of spying on an executive it thought had double-crossed the company in a shadowy deal to buy details on a rival's product line.
Former VP for business development Karl Kamb is suing HP for "pre-texting" - the use of false pretences to gain access to personal phone records - while he was still at the company. Pre-texting is at the heart of the HP spying scandal where Board members and journalists were spied on to find out who was leaking details of Board meetings.
However, it is Kamb's court filing that has raised eyebrows. In it, he claims to have been part of an HP conspiracy to obtain secret information about Dell's entry into the printer business. Katsumi Iizuka, who was ex-president of Dell Japan was hired to obtain the information and consulting fees of $10,000 per month have been mentioned.
Iizuka obtained information from Lexmark, Dell's printer manufacturer, about printer models, configurations and pricing and was paid through an intermediate company.
However, when Karl Kamb's wife sued him for divorce and subpoened HP for information about Kamb's involvement in a flat screen TV company called byD:sign, HP was alerted to the fact that Kamb had been working through his own private company to develop competing products while still at HP.
HP investigated Kamb - and he claims used pre-texting to spy on him - and sacked the executive in 2005. HP is also suing Kamb, four other ex-HP employees and two outside contractors, including Iizuka, claiming HP funds were diverted to Kamb's private company. It is seeking damages which could total $100 million.
Among the claims in HP's filing is that Kamb kept payments destined for Iizuka. Kamb denies it. Kamb has counter-sued raising the pre-texting issue. In response, HP's ethics officer at the time, Kevin Hunsaker, denied this in writing to Kamb.
However, Hunsaker has since said to lawyers in the HP boardroom leak pre-texting investigations last year that he learned pre-texting was first used in July 2005 to get information on a person who was going through a messy divorce. None of the subjects in the board room leak investigation met that criteria but Kamb did. Lawyers for Hunsaker say he was misquoted.
Kamb is suing HP for severance pay and unspecified damages. HP says Kamb's claim has no merit and will pursue its original claim against Kamb and others. HP ex-chairwoman Patricia Dunn, Hunsaker and others face pre-texting felony charges. They deny guilt. HP denies guilt. Kamb denies guilt. But HP did pay a rival's ex-president large sums of money for illicitly-obtained product information. Heart-warming stuff.
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