Patricia Dunn was defiant to the last on Tuesday in maintaining that she acted in Hewlett-Packard’s best interests when she called in private investigators to find the source of a boardroom leak.

She said it was “an important investigation that was required. These leaks had the potential to affect not only the stock price of HP but also that of other publicly traded companies.”

However, she did apologise for some of the techniques used in the investigation, saying “third parties” had acted outside the company’s expectations.

In the event, her own actions have done little to hurt the company financially thus far. In spite of HP’s name being dragged through the mud by the revelations about investigations now declared illegal by California’s attorney general, its share price has risen after a brief dip, with investors more concerned about the performance of its products.

“I am very proud of the progress HP has made over the past 18 months,” she said on Tuesday, reflecting on the tenure of Mark Hurd, whom she had championed and chosen as the new chief executive.

“I look forward to completing the transition that is under way, including expanding the board, continuing to improve our corporate governance standards and bringing the current issues to resolution.”

Ms Dunn had been the lead director and the leading proponent of Carly Fiorina’s removal as chief executive, according to the leaks she tried so hard to trace.

A former freelance journalist, she rose from secretary to chief executive at a unit of Barclays, the UK bank, before stepping down in 2002 due to breast cancer. When she recovered she returned as non-executive vice-chairman.

She owns a winery in Australia with her husband Bill Jahnke, the former president of Wells Fargo Investment Advisors.

She became a director at HP in 1998 and became non-executive chairman in February last year. She had previously chaired the audit committee.

Although the daughter of a showgirl and Vaudeville entertainer, brought up in Las Vegas, she will have taken no pleasure in the Grand Guignol she has unwittingly subjected the company to this month.

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