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HP Said to Have Spied on Lawyer

Phone records of Larry Sonsini were accessed in the boardroom leak probe, a source says.

September 19, 2006|David Streitfeld | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — Investigators for Hewlett-Packard Co. obtained the phone records of the computer maker's outside counsel, Larry Sonsini, as part of their effort to trace a corporate leaker, a source familiar with the matter said Monday.

HP spokesman Ryan J. Donovan declined to comment when asked whether company investigators had obtained the phone records of Sonsini, considered by many to be Silicon Valley's most prominent attorney.

In a regulatory filing two weeks ago, HP disclosed that it had investigated its own board members in an effort to determine who had disclosed information to news reporters. The company said that certain board members had been subject to "pretexting," the practice of impersonating people to access their personal information, in this case phone records.

HP later revealed that the phone records of nine reporters also were accessed. On Saturday, the company said it had obtained the records of two employees as well.

Sonsini, chairman of Palo Alto-based Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, wasn't available and a spokeswoman at the firm declined to comment.

E-mails obtained by The Times suggest that Sonsini was unaware of the investigation when it was launched last winter by board Chairwoman Patricia C. Dunn. He looked into it in June at the request of Thomas J. Perkins, a board member who quit in outrage over the probe.

Sonsini reported to Perkins that pretexting was "apparently a common investigatory method." He added that he had been told "the process was well done and within legal limits."

The company is facing probes from state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer, who has indicated he will bring unspecified charges, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Department of Justice and a House panel. A Lockyer spokesman declined to comment Monday.

HP's Donovan said the company had turned over to the House Energy and Commerce Committee information about how the company obtained the private phone records. Company executives and Sonsini have been asked to testify Sept. 28 at a subcommittee hearing.

In Houston, analysts, customers and journalists gathered Monday for the annual HP Technology Forum. Chief Executive Mark Hurd avoided commenting on the scandal as he told more than 5,000 attendees about the company's growth prospects.

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Times staff writer James S. Granelli contributed to this report.

david.streitfeld@latimes.com

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