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HP executives to testify before Congress on 'pretexting'

[JURIST] Hewlett-Packard's deadline to submit documents to the US House Energy and Commerce Committee [official website] expires Monday, and two top executives have been asked to testify before the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee on the topic of "pretexting," a method of tricking companies into divulging their customers' records, a practice HP is alleged to have engaged in during an investigation of their board members. Hewlett-Packard [corporate website], which admitted to the use of pretexting [SEC filing; CNET report] earlier this month, allegedly hired private investigators to uncover the source of leaked information coming from the HP board of directors. Last week, HP Chairperson Patricia Dunn announced her resignation [MSNBC report] after it was revealed that she authorized the use of pretexting. Dunn and HP General Counsel Ann O. Baskins are scheduled to testify on September 28 before the subcommittee.

After former HP board member Tom Perkins discovered that HP had obtained his personal phone records from his phone company, he demanded that HP tell the Securities and Exchange Commission about the practice, which it eventually did. The story attracted the attention of Congress and California Attorney General Bill Lockyer [JURIST news archive], who has said that HP broke fraud laws in authorizing the use of pretexting. Congress is now debating several bills aimed at making pretexting specifically illegal, including the Prevention of Fraudulent Access to Phone Records Act [HR 4943 summary; press release], which now awaits a full House vote. During Congressional panel hearings [JURIST report] on the issue, a self-described data broker detailed [statement, PDF] the technique of "pretexting," or tricking companies into divulging their customers' records. The Mercury News has local coverage. Bloomberg has more.

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