WASHINGTON--Members of Congress tasked with playing watchdog to Hewlett-Packard's boardroom woes couldn't resist getting in a few more digs at the Silicon Valley darling during a second consecutive day of hearings focused on the shady practice known as "pretexting."
Before questioning representatives from six wireless companies, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission, politicians on a U.S. House of Representatives oversight and investigations panel reflected on what they had heard at a marathon hearing the day before featuring former chairwoman Patricia Dunn and CEO Mark Hurd.
Rep. Diana DeGette, who served as the Democratic co-chairwoman during Thursday's hearing with HP, said the day's "illuminating" testimony left her with one clear impression: "There seems to be confusion in the highest echelons of corporate America and their legal counsel as to whether pretexting...is illegal."
Added Rep. Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican: "What we learned yesterday is the only thing worse in a corporation than leaks is unethical ways to plug the leaks."
Rep. Cliff Stearns, a Florida Republican, said he was similarly unamused by HP's responses, which he characterized as amounting to, "if I didn't see it and I didn't hear it, it didn't happen."
The politicians also used responses from HP executives as fodder for their questions on Friday. At one point, they heard from Christopher Byron, a New York Post columnist who said his phone records were pilfered four years ago in connection with a story he wrote for the technology magazine Red Herring.
Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield asked Byron what he thought of Dunn's comment "that she thought everyone's phone records were available to the public, that she wouldn't object to anyone having her phone records."
Byron said he, too, was amazed: "I know she reads and writes English," he said matter-of-factly, evoking giggles from the audience.