Lawyer for former HP chairman vows revenge on Perkins

Former board member Tom Perkins accused of "cowardly attacks" and "rewriting history" in his recent comments about Patricia Dunn.
Written by Michael Kanellos, Contributor
Those former Hewlett-Packard board members aren't going to be exchanging a lot of Christmas cards this year.

A day after former HP board member and venture capitalist Tom Perkins lambasted the performance of former Chairman Patricia Dunn, the lawyer representing Dunn lashed out at Perkins, calling him a self-serving bully whose credibility will be impeached in court.

"I am sorry that Patricia Dunn must endure Mr. Perkins' cowardly attacks, but he has made the biggest mistake of his career. He is a bully, and he is bullying the wrong people," said James Brosnahan in a statement. "Mr. Perkins has rewritten the history of the Hewlett-Packard board and attacked its competence...Rarely has a prominent businessman uttered such an immediate self-refuting statement."

Dunn and Perkins were once allies and worked together to get former CEO Carly Fiorina fired. Once Fiorina was gone, however, cracks in the alliance appeared. Dunn, in interviews, has said that Perkins and his allies on the board's technology committee, such as former board member George Keyworth, were effectively trying to control the company and ignoring corporate procedures.

Perkins for his part said that Dunn's obsession with procedures hampered HP's ability to compete with Dell and IBM. The investigation into boardroom leaks to the media, Perkins asserted, was really part of an overall plan by Dunn to control the board by eliminating the technology committee.

"I see this embarrassing public mess as a culmination of a war over the control over the board of the company," Perkins said Tuesday at the VentureOne Outlook Conference in San Francisco.

Since the scandal became public, the California attorney general has filed charges against Dunn. HP obtained phone records of reporters, board members and others to determine the source of the leaks. The attorney general asserts that the way HP got those phone records was illegal and has charged Dunn and other executives with responsibility for it. Documents show that Dunn was intimately involved in the investigation. Dunn, through her attorneys, has denied any wrongdoing.

Brosnahan asserted that Perkins is behind the charges.

"The case brought by the former attorney general at the insistence of Tom Perkins is pending in Santa Clara (County) Superior Court. Mr. Perkins generated an attack on Patricia Dunn, hired lawyers, hired a public relations firm and all because his colleague on the Hewlett-Packard board was found to be leaking information," Brosnahan said in a statement.

Brosnahan further claimed that because of the case, Dunn cannot publicly defend herself like Perkins and speak about the scandal.

The renowned lawyer, however, neglected to mention that Dunn has given lengthy interviews on the subject to The New Yorker magazine and the television news magazine 60 Minutes. The New Yorker piece and the 60 Minutes segment both became public after Dunn was charged with felonies in California.

Perkins had not spoken much about the scandal until Tuesday.

Despite the investigation, HP's sales have actually improved in the past year. Both the Dunn and Perkins camps (along with Fiorina) have claimed credit for the recovery. The recovery, though, has dovetailed with slow sales and product miscues at rival Dell.

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