The sensational revelation that Hewlett-Packard Co. engaged in “pretexting” to gain access to directors’ and reporters’ phone records has not just created damaging headlines for the Silicon Valley company, but made it a target of a criminal investigation. Larry Sonsini, the company’s long-time outside counsel, stated in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that although he told the company after the fact that the practice was “within legal limits,” he was just relying on the opinion of an in-house lawyer.

Questions about the seamy practice of pretexting may be outside the normal scope of practice for a corporate lawyer. Questions about securities laws governing the disclosure of board activities, however, should be bread and butter matters for someone like Sonsini.

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