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Politics of the top job.

REVELATIONS that Hewlett-Packard spied on its directors and nine journalists in order to plug a boardroom leak left chairman Patricia Dunn taking the fall. For a company to lose one chief (Carly Fiorina) in a board-related tussle may be unfortunate but to lose a second begins to look like carelessness.

Amid the furor over phone probes there is a troubling concern that has gone unremarked: The increasing politicization of the top job.

That companies try to prevent leaks of sensitive information is commonplace. A June survey of 50 executives by Merrill Lynch found 52 percent rated leaks of confidential information as their No. 1 priority, according to a Wall Street Journal news story. Suppose Ms. Dunn hadn't launched a probe? (By all accounts her motives were never questioned. She had no idea that the methods employed by the security firm in question were illegal.) How many derivative lawsuits would have been filed against her and H-P for failure to exercise due care?

Consider also the circumstances surrounding the firing of CEO Peter Dolan at Bristol-Myers Squibb: the board gave in to demands of Frederick Lacey, a former federal judge who has been overseeing the company since last year at the behest of the U.S. attorney for New Jersey. Accountability is important, but in our system of private enterprise those in charge should be exercising it.
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Title Annotation:Hewlett-Packard Co.- Patricia Dunn; due diligence, prevention of fraud
Publication:Chief Executive (U.S.)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:226
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