As an isolated case, it all seems so pointless. HP has been a success story of which most computer companies should be envious. The bone of contention among board members that was the subject of the spying–Carly Fiorina’s leadership–was over and done with, the moment she was fired. The new management, which are the ones under indictment had no good reason for continuing their quest for answers. And the underlying issue that prompted the disagreements in the first place–the purchase of Compaq–had been resolved in their favor long ago. I suspect that, behind the impulse to find out who leaked board discussions to the press, lies a pathological need for control that is completely out of sync with modern business innovation.
When faced with such a breech of trust, such deliberative courting of dishonor, one has to look at the atmosphere set by the society around.
Is there a prominent leader of society who believes he should be able to spy on anyone he wants at any time, at whim?
Is there such a leader who disdains all laws and constructs any excuse available to justify ignoring them?
Is there leadership that considers disagreement to be disloyalty, and to be so abhorrent as to rule out any accommodation with or sympathy for those who disagree?
But even this kind of reckoning is at risk if current conditions continue. One can already see where the spin is traveling, as one of the defendant’s lawyers “argued that the tactic of pretexting is legitimate because law enforcement officials have encouraged its use by hiring outside investigators to obtain private records.” (Boston Globe) Someday, CEOs caught red-handed will say, “If the law prohibits what I’m doing, just change the law.”