Hewlett Packard obtained the telephone records of nine reporters as part of its internal probe of leaks coming from its board, the company confirmed yesterday.
The list of the nine reporters - including one from The Wall Street Journal and IT news site CNet - was sent to the Office of the Attorney General of the State of California, in response to the Attorney General's inquiries. HP sought to remove itself from the actions of an outside investigator it had hired.
"HP is dismayed that the phone records of journalists were accessed without their knowledge, and we are fully co-operating with the attorney general's investigation," said a company spokesman.
HP admitted in an SEC filing that an outside investigator had used "pretexting," a technique in which an investigator obtains information by disguising their identity, but the revelation that the company obtained details from members of the press is likely to backfire heavily.
HP's investigation had been sparked by what the company said were "multiple leaks of confidential HP information," including discussions by the board of directors. At a board meeting in May, director George Keyworth was asked to resign after the investigation recognised him as a source of those leaks. He refused, causing another director, Thomas Perkins, to resign over the investigation's handling, HP said.
California's attorney general has asked HP for information about techniques used in the leak investigation, while the SEC is making inquiries into a filing HP made when Perkins resigned.
HP confirmed reports that among the journalists whose phone records were accessed were a reporter from The Wall Street Journal and CNet, but declined to name the others. The leaks to the Wall Street Journal included information about discussions leading up to the firing of CEO Carly Fiorina last year.
The Attorney General's office declined to name the reporters on the list.
Additional reporting by Stephen Lawson.