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The Cargo Cult of Business » In Defense of Pretexting

In Defense of Pretexting

Published on 18 Sep 2006 at 10:25 am | No Comments | Trackback
Filed under The Cargo Cults of Business, One Corporation Under God, Business and Corporation Related, Legal, Law, and Courts, Government: Federal, State and Local, Main Stream Media.

The recent media blitz regarding HP’s Board of Directors misses something. In the Brave New Sarbanes-Oxley World, Boards of Directors are strictly charged with overseeing the ethics of the businesses they govern. Legally, it is their most important duty.

One HP board member was consistently violating his ethical obligations, by divulging confidential to outsiders. This was also a violation of his specific and acknowledged duties as defined by the non-disclosure agreement he signed when joining the board.

HP’s board chair, Patricia Dunn, set a legal team to work on finding out who the leaker was. Good for her! She has been maligned, unfairly, for being a very methodical, cross-the-Ts and dot-the-Is sort of person. In a non-executive board member, especially the board chair, this is good. Would that Enron had had a person who said, "Hey! What’s this loose thread? What happens if I pull on it?"

Ms Dunn’s efforts paid off; the leaker was found and forced off the board. One only hopes some sort of prosecution or civil suit follows. But a great hue and cry has been raised over the fact that a private detective used pretexting to obtain phone records that fingered the guilty party.

I see no foul here. The police routinely look at call-detail records for leads, and use them as evidence. The courts have ruled that private investigators have _greater_ powers than the cops. They don’t need warrants, for example. Pretexting phone records does not seem to shred the Constitution. For one thing, the phone system is a quasi-public entity…..

In the end, a rich and powerful man who thought himself above the law, and abused the trust placed in him, has been caught. This is a good thing. The media’s howls are, well, predictable. Too many journalists wish to wrap themselves in a flag-trimmed copy of the First Amendment, but journalists should not be above the law. Why not? Because, in the Age of Internet, we are all journalists. 


-- Oliver
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