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Unauthorized Disclosure Hewlett Packards Secret Surveillance of Directors and Journalists Case Solution

Solution Id Length Case Author Case Publisher
983 775 Words (3 Pages) Anne T. Lawrence, Randall D. Harris, Sally Baack North American Case Research Association : NA0050
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Hewlett Packard, an IT giant, found itself in the middle of a crisis after some of the board members disclosed nonpublic information to the press. The board chairman formed an investigation committee, which during its working used illegal and unethical methods for determining the source of the leak.

Following questions are answered in this case study solution

  1. Problem Identification

  2. Evaluation and Analysis

  3. Alternatives

  4. Plan of Action

Case Analysis for Unauthorized Disclosure Hewlett Packards Secret Surveillance of Directors and Journalists

Evaluation and Analysis

First of all, the main issue was the investigation technique used by the team for identifying the source of the leak. The technique was not only unethical but was also against the corporate culture and ethical standards of the company. Secondly, the company failed to perform due diligence in hiring outside investigators. Third, the chairperson also failed to make sure that the technique used for investigation is legal and conforms to the standard of private investigation. Though, taking board of directors into confidence was not possible, but the chairperson could have sought formal legal assistance and approval before tapping phone records.

Pretexting is basically an act of impersonating someone so as to make the victim divulge information, which he would not provide under ordinary situation. In the case of HP, the private investigator was calling the phone company and posing as someone else in order to obtain phone records of suspected directors of the board so as to identify the source of the leak. Pretexting raises serious ethical and legal concerns as a person is merely lying to another person for the purpose of obtaining personal information, which should be strictly inaccessible to others like telephone records, e-mail records, passwords etc. Ethical issues involved here are lying and impersonation, which are simply unacceptable because of the unimaginable consequences it can have on the physical and mental health of the victim. Lastly, there is a reason behind making some data strictly personal and inaccessible to everyone hence, accessing it through inappropriate means is an invasion to the privacy of that particular individual.


First alternative available was to ask each of the board members simply whether or not they were involved in leaking any of the nonpublic information to journalists anonymously; as Key worth explained that simply asking the question would have resulted in his confession of leaking the information. The option would not only have saved a considerable amount of time and resources that got wasted in pursuing the information, but would also have avoided the situation for investigators to break various laws and employ unethical techniques. There is a high possibility that Key worth would not have stepped up and confessed about the leaking so the company could have made all board members sign an agreement where they would be liable for pay damages in the case found to be the source, directly or indirectly. Second alternative was to inform all board members of the investigation method that the team was using for identifying the source of the leak. The company could have used official permission from the court in tapping the phone records of the board of directors. This would have avoided the situation of using unethical and illegal techniques. Though, not all members would have been willing to allow tapping of their phone records and e-mails, but it would have been easier for the investigating team to narrow their search to members who were not cooperating in the investigation. In addition to this, company would have faced a tough time in facing media and law enforcement bodies because using the second alternative would have meant to publicly carryout the investigation.

Plan of Action

The most feasible method would have been to make all board members sign an agreement of confidentiality where all directors would be liable to pay heft damages if they were found involved in leaking nonpublic information to any outside source including the media. The agreement should have included the clause, in case of any major leak; an investigation would be carried out, which would employ all necessary techniques for identifying the source of the leak. This confidentiality agreement would have bound all directors to allow the investigation team all necessary documents including access to phone records and personal e-mails. This method would have allowed the investigation team to carry out all investigations legally without facing any moral or ethical dilemma. In addition to this, this method would not have sparked any controversy in the company and media, and would have avoided all unnecessary legal proceedings that the top management had to face after the investigation process got surfaced.

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