HP pays $14.5m to end 'spy' probe

Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay $14.5m to settle a civil lawsuit over its much-criticised investigation into a boardroom leak.

Hewlett-Packard has agreed to pay $14.5m to settle a civil lawsuit over its much-criticised investigation into a boardroom leak.  The probe by the Californian attorney general came after allegations that HP had spied on directors and journalists in order to try and find the source of the leak.  This scandal led to the departure of the firm's chairman Patricia Dunn.

In September HP admitted that it had used private investigators in an attempt to discover which director had leaked "confidential" reports to the press.  These investigators were accused of tapping phone calls and emails of HP directors and a number of journalists.  They are also said to have gained access to phone records by pretending to be the people they were spying on, a technique called "pretexting".

HP said that the payment to the attorney general's office does not mean that the company accepts liability.  In return, the attorney general will now not pursue any civil claims against the company or current and former directors, managers and employees.

Bill Lockyer, Californian attorney general, praised Hewlett-Packard for fully cooperating with the investigation.

"Fortunately, Hewlett-Packard is not Enron," he said.

However, the story doesn't end here.  HP is still being investigated by a Congressional committee.  

HP now has to concentrate on rebuilding trust - It might have a long way to go.

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