HP spy scandal: the Mark Hurd memo

With Hewlett-Packard in turmoil over the dubious tactics used to used to access private phone records of board directors and journalists, HP chief executive officer Mark Hurd has put out a message to staff that purportedly seeks to address the spy scandal.

Read the memo carefully. It raises more questions than answers.

First, as a document that supposedly seeks to reassure employees, it's more about spin than addressing the issue.

Yes, it makes the point that leaking information is unacceptable but at the same time, Hurd seeks to distance himself from the board. ("I want to be clear that I am speaking to you today as the CEO of Hewlett-Packard, not on behalf of the HP board"). That's code for "Don't blame me".

He also downgrades the significance of the decision to get phone records of board members and journalists under false pretences, and the fact that the company is now being investigated for possible criminal offenses. ("I have told you several times that building a successful company means we will have our ups and downs, and issues will come up. We are dealing with an issue now.").

In other words, this is just a speed bump. And it's enough of an "issue" for California Attorney-General Bill Lockyer to come and declare that a crime was committed and that charges may come out of this.

The memo is interesting for what it leaves out.

Hurd, for example, does not reveal how much he knew of investigation into the media leaks. Did Dunn brief him? How much input did he have? Did he know it involved pretexting? And what about his own phone records?


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