Hewlitt-Packard Chairman Mark Hurd Thursday apologized to the nine journalists and others whose privacy was violated by the company in its investigations of leaks from its board of directors.
But he acknowledged that he was aware that reporters had been sent fake e-mails to try to get information on the leaks and thought at the time it was OK, but doesn't now.
There is a difference between illegal and unethical, he said.
Hurd was appearing before the House Energy & Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
to pledge that the company had taken steps to make sure the violations are repeated, including the resignations of its former chairman and general counsel.
Hurd said he was not a supporter of leaks, but that tracking them down was not a top priority for the company. He pointed out that he has 151,000 employees and that the CEO can't backstop every process.
Hurd was in the minority of HP employees, or in some case recently unemployed former staffers, who did not invoke their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the investigation of the scandal.
HP execs approved so-called "pretexting," misrepresenting yourself to gain personal information like phone records from someone else, as part of the board leak investigation.
It is illegal to use "false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or documents to get customer information from a financial institution or directly from a customer of a financial institution," but there remains a gray area between illegal and unethical that Congress is trying to turn into brighter lines.
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