For more than a week now, Hewlett-Packard's Patricia Dunn has been pilloried on all fronts for her handling of the company's boardroom leaks. And now, as is often the way in these stories, another side is being told. Fortune's David Kirkpatrick says that Dunn's supporters paint a far different picture of what led to last week's meltdown. Much of the focus is on former director Thomas Perkins, who blew the whistle on the snooping of board members' phone records.
In effect, her supporters say, she was willing to resist Perkins even at the cost of a public spectacle. They say she underestimated how disastrous for the company that spectacle would become, because she really didn't know until just a few weeks ago that the company's investigators had crossed the line into unethical and probably illegal behavior in the search for leakers that led to the unmasking of [board member George] Keyworth.
Her supporters say that even if she knew about the pretexting, she absolutely didn't realize that the techniques had also been used on journalists and employees. She also felt that since the board knew about the leak investigation, board members had accepted and understood that they would be investigated themselves. Clearly Perkins disagrees. In a June 20 email to the company's outside counsel, Larry Sonsini, chairman of Wilson Sonsini, he wrote that the investigation was "unknown to the board except...in the most vague and imprecise terms."
Kirkpatrick also brings up an angle that has gotten very little attention: Patricia Dunn's health.