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Shares in Hewlett-Packard fell more than 5 per cent on Thursday amid concerns that Mark Hurd, chief executive, could be caught up in the fallout from a controversial investigation into boardroom leaks at the world’s second- biggest computer maker.
The slide marked the first time that HP’s shares have taken a big hit since the company admitted that investigators working on behalf of Patricia Dunn, its chairman, used false pretences to obtain the telephone records of board members, employees and journalists to ferret out a boardroom mole.
“Mark Hurd has done a lot to pull [HP] together. He has shown a lot of good leadership and until now he was riding above the fray,” said Roger Kay an analyst at Endpoint Technologies. “If he is perceived to be in jeopardy, it’s not a good thing.”
The company said Mr Hurd had offered to appear next Thursday before a House committee that is looking into the leak investigation.
HP also said that the Securities and Exchange Commission had requested information about its probe, which has prompted criminal investigations by state and federal authorities. The SEC requested documents related to the departure of Tom Perkins, an HP director who resigned in May in protest over Ms Dunn’s handling of the matter.
HP’s reputation has been further battered by reports that its undercover operation extended far beyond phone records to include physical surveillance and other operations against board members, journalists, employees and their spouses.
Concerns about Mr Hurd’s role in the probe helped push HP’s shares down nearly 5.2 per cent. Mr Hurd has led a resurgence at HP since he took control following the ousting of Carly Fiorina.
The concerns emerged after a report in the Washington Post said that internal e-mails sent by Ms Dunn indicated that Mr Hurd had approved a “sting” operation against a journalist suspected of receiving confidential information from within HP.
The newspaper said none of the e-mails seen by its reporters was from Mr Hurd. It said those it saw did not indicate what information Mr Hurd had when he authorised the operation.
HP said it had appointed outside lawyers to examine its leak investigation. It disputed statements by Bill Lockyer, California’s top prosecutor, who complained that HP had stopped co-operating with his investigation of the leak probe. “HP has been and continues to co-operate,” a spokesman said. Mr Lockyer’s office later said HP had stopped handing over information last week, but that the lack of co-operation “had been corrected”.
Mr Lockyer said on Friday there was no evidence yet linking Mr Hurd to any criminal wrongdoing.
“We don’t yet have any evidence that would lead to the CEO as one of those that committed the crimes,” he told the CNBC cable television network in an interview. “But we’re not complete yet. We haven’t finished the investigation.”