News came out yesterday that former HP chairwoman Patricia Dunn was the one who gave HP's outside private investigators the phone numbers that were later used as part of a fraudulent pretexting scheme that was designed to smoke out whoever it was inside of HP that was leaking company secrets to the press. According to News.com's Greg Sandoval:
Former Hewlett-Packard Chairman Patricia Dunn may not have known what "pretexting" meant, but she personally provided to HP's outside investigators the telephone numbers of reporters whose phone records were accessed without their permission....Documents made public last week reveal that Dunn provided the home, office and cell phone numbers of two BusinessWeek reporters to Ronald DeLia, the operator of Security Outsourcing Solutions, which was hired by HP to conduct a hunt for boardroom leaks.
Dunn has already testified to Congress that DeLia told her in mid-2005 that personal phone records were publicly available. DeLia exercised his rights under the fifth amendment rights at that hearing and did not testify. But in a statement provided to one of HPs lawyers, DeLia had different recollection of his mid-2005 conversation with Dunn; one where he did tell her that pretexting would be involved.
News that Dunn furnished the numbers to DeLia will no doubt fuel more speculation than that which already exists regarding indictments that could be brought against Dunn for her role HP's privacy scandal. Before Congress last week, Dunn, who is clearly scraping for exhoneration at this point, routinely noted that she would never have approved of any initiative involving fraudulent practices. But the Congresspeople clearly weren't buying it, citing at least three situations where Dunn was "in the presence" of information indicating that fraudulent activities were either in the works or being considered. In each of those cases (one of which was the conversation with DeLia), Dunn denied coming into contact with that information.
Her claims of plausible deniability, as I wrote last week, came across as a case of liar, liar, pants-on-fire that's holding less and less water as each new detail emerges. I can, for example, understand if there was just one situation to cite, where evidence suggests she knew of the plans but she has a reasonable alibi. But three (in two of which she basically said that other people were having failing memories and one of which she didn't thoroughly review a PowerPoint that was prepared/presented explicitly for her)?
There are a lot of criminal metaphors that come to mind. For example, Dunn expects us to believe that she, a person who has ascended to as high spot on the Corporate American ladder as just about anyone can go, accepted at face value from a third party private investigator that phone records were a matter of public record. Why is she telling us this? If a gun salesman tells me that it's OK to shoot anyone I want, does that mean that after I go out and shoot someone, that I shouldn't be accountable for it simply because I didn't know the law? Or simply because what some third party told me was plausible?
OK, although I still think it applies, that metaphor is a stretch. She wasn't actually the one that did the pretexting. Someone else did. But now that she was the one who personally furnished the phone numbers to those engaging in the pretexting, perhaps its a different ball game. If for example, a crime was comitted, perhaps now she qualifies as an accomplice. It's one thing to ask someone to do something for you (even if it's for money). But isn't another if you enable the crime with the raw materials. Note, this is very different than a gun salesman selling a gun (or just the bullets) to someone when the gun salesman hasn't a clue as to who the buyer is or what his or her goals are.
Update: It appears official. CA attorney general is apparently going to bring indictments against Dunn and four others.