HP pays $14.5m to end 'spy' probe

Hewlett-Packard (HP) has agreed to pay $14.5m (£7.4m) to settle a civil lawsuit over its much-criticised investigation into a boardroom leak. The probe by the Californian attorney general came after allegations that HP had wrongly spied on its directors to try and find the source of the leak. HP said its payment to the attorney general's office did not mean it accepted any liability. The spying scandal led to the departure of the firm's chairman Patricia Dunn. She stood down with immediate effect in September. The firm said in a statement on Friday that the attorney general would not now pursue civil claims against the company or against its current and former directors, managers and employees. 'Very disturbing' The firm admitted in September that in a bid to discover which director had leaked "confidential" reports to the press, it had hired private investigators. These were then accused of tapping phone calls and emails of HP directors and a number of journalists. The investigators were said to have illegally gained phone records by pretending to be the people they were spying on, a practice known as "pretexting". HP's chief executive Mark Hurd has already admitted that the methods the investigators used to try and identify who was behind the boardroom leaks were "very disturbing". Californian attorney general Bill Lockyer praised HP for fully cooperating. "Fortunately, Hewlett-Packard is not Enron," he said. "I commend the firm for cooperating instead of stonewalling, for taking instead of shirking responsibility, and for working with my office to expeditiously craft a creative resolution." HP is still also being investigated by a Congressional committee.

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