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Thu, Sep 14, 2006 - Page 10 News List

Prosecutor ready with HP suit charges

LEAK INVESTIGATION Calfornia's top state prosecutor has enough evidence to press charges in the industrial spying probe, while on Tuesday Patricia Dunn resigned as CEO

AFP , SAN FRANCISCO

California's attorney general has enough evidence in the Hewlett-Packard Co (HP) espionage probe to back criminal charges against people "inside and outside" of the company, a spokesman said on Tuesday.

"We do believe based on the evidence gathered so far that we have sufficient information to bring charges against individuals inside and outside Hewlett-Packard," Tom Dressler, a spokesman for California's top prosecutor, said.

Dressler declined to discuss details of the evidence or whom it implicated.

HP chairwoman Patricia Dunn announced her resignation on Tuesday as the US technology firm grappled with a dramatic corporate scandal and investigations on state, federal and Congressional levels.

Dunn, who took over last year as non-executive chairwoman after the stormy reign of Carly Fiorina, apologized after private detectives that she had hired to investigate boardroom leaks to the media "went beyond" their mandate.

HP said that its chief executive officer and president, Mark Hurd, would succeed Dunn as chairman at a board meeting on Jan. 18. Dunn will continue to serve as a company director.

"I am taking action to ensure that inappropriate investigative techniques will not be employed again. They have no place in HP," Hurd said in a statement.

The California state attorney general's office and federal prosecutors are investigating whether HP's private eyes broke the law by impersonating board members and journalists to get private telephone records.

California Attorney General Bill Lockyer has vowed to prosecute wrongdoers at HP at the end of his investigation.

The company said it was "cooperating fully" with the inquiries but Dunn has denied authorizing illicit tactics.

The world's second-largest personal computer maker now faces a new period of top-level change after Dunn, 53, had steadied the ship following the controversial leadership of Fiorina, who clashed repeatedly with the board in her five years as both chairwoman and CEO.

Unlike its rival Dell Inc, HP has posted strong earnings growth this year and its share price has climbed about 30 percent since Fiorina's departure. HP's stock closed up 1.54 percent at US$36.92 on Tuesday.

Dunn insisted the investigation that she launched was merited, even if the subsequent tactics were not.

"I am very proud of the progress HP has made over the past 18 months," she added, promising an orderly transition and "to improve our corporate governance standards" during the rest of her term.

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