Defence and prosecution lawyers in the HP spying case are scheduled to meet with the presiding judge on 4 December to discuss possible plea bargains, the San Jose Mercury News reported on Saturday.

California Deputy Attorney General Robert Morgester requested the meeting with defence counsel for five defendants charged in the case, although he cautioned that plea bargains will not necessarily be agreed upon in the meeting, the newspaper reported.

Former HP chairman Patricia Dunn pleaded not guilty on 15 November to each of four felony charges in the case before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Jerome Nadler in San Jose, California. Former HP legal counsel Kevin Hunsaker pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on 7 November.

Dunn is alleged to have ordered, and Hunsaker supervised, an internal investigation to identify which directors leaked details of confidential board deliberations to the media. HP hired outside private investigators who allegedly used false pretences to obtain from phone companies the calling records of directors, HP employees and reporters who cover the Californian technology company.

Not-guilty pleas have also been entered for Ronald L DeLia, a Boston-area private detective; Matthew DePante, manager of Action Research Group, a Melbourne, Florida, information broker; and Bryan Wagner, a Littleton, Colorado, man who is said to have obtained private phone records while working for Action Research.

The state filed charges against each of using false or fraudulent pretences to obtain confidential information from a public utility, wrongful use of computer data, identity theft and conspiracy to commit each of those crimes.

Also, HP announced 17 November that G Kennedy Thompson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of financial services firm Wachovia, has been elected to the company's board of directors. The HP board approved Thompson's appointment on 16 November.

The spying scandal lead to the resignations of three board members: Dunn, George Keyworth and Thomas Perkins. Thompson becomes the 9th member of the HP board, and the 7th who does not work at HP.

Director Mark Hurd, HP's CEO, became chairman upon Dunn's resignation in September.