Former HP boss Patricia Dunn dies at 58

Legacy sullied by 'pretexting' scandal


Obituary Patricia Dunn, former chairman of HP, died on Sunday at the age of 58 after a long fight with cancer.

Dunn was appointed to the top job at HP in 2005 after joining the board in 1998. She lasted barely a year before being forced out and charged with hiring a team of private investigators to tap the phones of journalists and board members in a bid to stop corporate information leaking: the so-called "pretexting" scandal.

Some of the methods used by the investigators hired by HP were found to be illegal, even though Dunn insisted that she had been told that no laws were being broken. The case led to investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, FBI, House of Representatives, and the attorney general of California. Two HP board membersresigned in protest at the company’s actions.

HP ended up paying $14.5m to the state of California in a settlement of the charges, as well as paying off certain journalists who were targeted and kicking Dunn out of her job. Dunn was replaced by Mark Hurd, who many commentators thought was lucky to escape firing himself, but who successfully convinced investigators that he was not at fault.

The "company later acknowledged she did not authorize, direct or conduct the investigation,'' her husband William Jahnke told the Wall Street Journal. "She was asked to resign from the board because her continued presence had become a distraction.''

The result was to haunt Dunn’s otherwise exemplary record. She dropped out of university at an early age to care for a parent before finishing her degree and joining Wells Fargo as a temporary secretary. She quickly rose to become head of Barclays Global Investors, which had bought her division, and at the time of her appointment to the board was seen as one of the most financially capable female business leaders in the US.

Dunn received treatment in the last decade for melanoma and breast cancer, and was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2004, which spread to her liver. She is survived by her husband.

"Pattie Dunn worked tirelessly for the good of HP. We are saddened by the news of her passing, and our thoughts go out to her family on their loss," HP said in a widely-reported statement. ®

Similar topics

Narrower topics


Other stories you might like

  • It's 2022 and there are still malware-laden PDFs in emails exploiting bugs from 2017
    Crafty file names, encrypted malicious code, Office flaws – ah, it's like the Before Times

    HP's cybersecurity folks have uncovered an email campaign that ticks all the boxes: messages with a PDF attached that embeds a Word document that upon opening infects the victim's Windows PC with malware by exploiting a four-year-old code-execution vulnerability in Microsoft Office.

    Booby-trapping a PDF with a malicious Word document goes against the norm of the past 10 years, according to the HP Wolf Security researchers. For a decade, miscreants have preferred Office file formats, such as Word and Excel, to deliver malicious code rather than PDFs, as users are more used to getting and opening .docx and .xlsx files. About 45 percent of malware stopped by HP's threat intelligence team in the first quarter of the year leveraged Office formats.

    "The reasons are clear: users are familiar with these file types, the applications used to open them are ubiquitous, and they are suited to social engineering lures," Patrick Schläpfer, malware analyst at HP, explained in a write-up, adding that in this latest campaign, "the malware arrived in a PDF document – a format attackers less commonly use to infect PCs."

    Continue reading
  • Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway buys 11.4% stake in HP
    Even notoriously tech averse stock market gambler can't resist piece of pandemic-boosted PC extravaganza

    Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway has taken up a double-digit stake in PC and print biz HP Inc's stock worth about $4.2 billion, a move that sent the company's share price up by 10 percent.

    The purchase, confirmed in a SEC filing by the investment vehicle on 6 April, saw roughly 121 million HP shares shift over to the new owner in what can be seen as a vote of confidence in the residual value of HP. This equates to a circa 11.4 percent ownership of the company.

    "Berkshire Hathaway is one of the world's most respected investors and we welcome them as an investor in HP," the world's largest printer and second largest PC brand said.

    Continue reading
  • HP bets big on future of hybrid work with $3.3bn Poly buy
    Plantronics and Polycom have a new parent company

    HP Inc sees the future of its business as one supporting a workforce partially based at home and partially in the office, and appears to have bought office telecom giant Poly for that reason.

    Formerly known as Plantronics, Poly changed its name shortly after it acquired Polycom in 2018. HP didn't mention in its acquisition announcement whether or not it would keep the Poly brand separate, but it's still early: the deal is not expected to close until the end of the 2022 calendar year. 

    HP described the $3.3 billion purchase ($40 per share) as a bid to refocus its portfolio on growth and take advantage of what it said is a massive growth opportunity due to the likely permanence of hybrid work. 

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022