Media misses the mark: HP is treating Patricia Dunn with kid gloves

The mainstream media, and sad to say, most of the blogosphere, are getting this story of Patricia Dunn's "ouster" from the chairpersonship of Hewlett-Packard completely wrong.First, the quickest of backgrounders: Dunn is front and center in a full-blown scandal that has involved HP using investigators using shady "pretexting" practices to pry into the personal calling records of nine reporters.

The mainstream media, and sad to say, most of the blogosphere, are getting this story of Patricia Dunn's "ouster" from the chairpersonship of Hewlett-Packard completely wrong.

First, the quickest of backgrounders: Dunn is front and center in a full-blown scandal that has involved HP using investigators using shady "pretexting" practices to pry into the personal calling records of nine reporters. These reporters were believed to have gathered information about HP matters (pertaining to the eventual ouster of one-time CEO Carly Fiorina) leaked to them by a board member who, apparently, was anxious to tell what he knew. (As if that would ever happen at, say Apple).

As a journalist who has published many a leaked story before the company in question was ready to talk about it, I'm still burning up about this incident (curiously being typed up here on an HP Pavilion).

Said to be countenanced by Dunn, this "pretexting" may result in indictments by the California Attorney General's office as soon as next week. But that's not why I am coming to you now.

The press is noting Dunn's ouster from the board, but they are almost parenthetically burying the facts that she will still be Chair until January, and will remain a director after that.

What I want to know is, why the hell isn't she out of there RIGHT NOW??

It isn't that corporate America is unskilled at losing key people in a hurry when it wants to. Many a mid-manager has been told that "you have 30 minutes to clean out your desk." Passwords have already been changed, and security has already been called to walk that person out the door and watch out for any body language signs of "going postal."

At the highest levels of corporate America, departures happen just as rapidly. A key institutional investor or two twitches an eyebrow, and then a day later we see the statement that the exec has resigned, "we wish him/her well, we thank him/her for many years of service..." . By then they are already gone. Best-case example is, ironically, HP's ouster of Carly Fiorina. HP pitched her out, and she didn't hang around. Not four months. Not four hours.

My question to HP is that since Patricia Dunn apparently has countenanced practices that your own CEO has said is diametrically non-HP, why are you keeping this woman around one nanosecond more? At first I thought it could be compassion for Dunn's cancer struggles, but I have to think some of HP's previous layoffs have involved employees with similar issues and far fewer personal financial resources. So I don't think that's it.

Obviously there is some high-dollar lawyering going on. If she is indicted, her departure will be hastened.

Not quick enough.