Bugs not features at HP

Amazing goings-on at Hewlett Packard, once one of the best and the nicest companies in the world. Here’s the report from Good Morning Silicon Valley

Hewlett-Packard, long known for its open and egalitarian corporate structure, is making headlines today for an astonishing lapse in judgement that may forever tarnish the the core values established by its founders some 50 years ago. According to reports, HP Chairwoman Patricia Dunn ordered the surveillance of HP board members in an effort to out a director who was leaking information to the news media. On her sayso, a team of security consultants gathered board members’ private telephone records and used them to finger longtime HP director George Keyworth as the source of the leaks. Dunn outed Keyworth and demanded his resignation at a May 18 meeting which quickly went bad when she revealed her surveillance scheme. (Keyworth will not be renominated to the company’s board.)

Enraged at Dunn’s methods, well-known venture capitalist Tom Perkins abruptly quit the board and stormed out of the meeting. HP announced his resignation the next day, but without explanation. Since then, Perkins has been after HP to make a full and accurate report of the circumstances surrounding his departure. HP refused, so Perkins forced its hand, going public in an irate letter to company directors attached to which was a memo from AT&T’s general attorney confirming an unauthorized review of his phone records. “As the Company failed to make a full and accurate report (as required by federal law) and having given the Company several opportunities to correct the record, I am now legally obliged to disclose publicly the reasons for my resignation,” Perkins wrote. “This is a very sad duty. My history with the Hewlett-Packard Company is long and I have been privileged to count both founders as close friends. I consider HP to be an icon of Silicon Valley, and one of the great companies of the world. It now needs, urgently, to correct its course.”

Dunn ought to be fired. Pronto.

Ironic footnote: “First and foremost is that privacy is actually a core value at HP. As a company, HP is 100 percent committed to excellence in consumer and employee privacy…”

— Scott Taylor, Chief Privacy Officer, Hewlett-Packard, June 20, 2006