by CIO Staff

HP Scandal: Dunn, Fiorina Blame Perkins for Downfall

Oct 09, 20063 mins

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Former Hewlett-Packard Chairwomen Patricia Dunn and Carly Fiorina each cited board member Thomas Perkins as an instigator behind their ousters from the technology company, according to interviews the two gave on a U.S. TV news program Sunday night.

Dunn and Fiorina made their comments in separate segments on the CBS News program 60 Minutes. Dunn responded to felony charges filed against her and four other defendants in a California court last week for the alleged use of illegal tactics to probe boardroom leaks to news media. Fiorina commented about her book on her HP tenure, Tough Decisions: A Memoir, which is being published this week.

Dunn told correspondent Lesley Stahl that Perkins, of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, launched a campaign to force Dunn off the board over how she conducted an investigation of boardroom leaks. “It was a classic disinformation campaign, and he set the mindset for basically everything that’s believed about this [case] right now,” Dunn said.

Dunn initiated an investigation of leaks to the media in 2005 and a second one in 2006, in which HP hired outside private investigators who allegedly used false pretenses to gain access to phone records of HP directors, some employees and journalists who cover the company.

Perkins did not comment for 60 Minutes, but Stahl reported that a spokesman for Perkins said Perkins talked to people with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice and the California attorney general’s office to complain about the tactics used in the leak investigation.

Dunn claims that Perkins turned against her when she wanted to identify Perkins board ally George Keyworth as the director who leaked news of board deliberations to a reporter in January. She says Perkins wanted the identity of the leaker kept confidential, but she wouldn’t agree to that. Perkins, Keyworth and Dunn have all since resigned from the board of the company.

Fiorina, who was fired as chairwoman, president and chief executive officer of HP in February 2005, told Stahl she believes Perkins and Keyworth were behind her ouster as well.

Fiorina said she initiated her own investigation of board leaks in early 2005 after The Wall Street Journal reported the board was considering an HP reorganization plan that would have stripped Fiorina of some of her powers. Perkins acknowledged being the second source for the Journal story, confirming information the reporter gained from another source, Stahl reported.

Fiorina said of Perkins and Keyworth, “Both of them were aligned in how they thought I should reorganize the business.”

Keyworth, other directors and HP also declined to comment for 60 Minutes.

News reports at the time of Fiorina’s firing said it happened because the merger she engineered between HP and Compaq Computer in 2002 wasn’t working and that HP’s stock price had fallen. But Fiorina said she was never given any explanation by the board for her dismissal.

She also said she believes her downfall may have been due to her gender.

“I think men understand other men’s needs for respect differently than how they understand it for a woman,” said Fiorina, who downplayed the notion of a glass ceiling for women when hired at HP in 1999.

“I’m disappointed to have to say that, but I think it’s undeniably true,” she told Stahl.

-Robert Mullins, IDG News Service (San Francisco Bureau)