Procter & Gamble – manufacturer of some of the globe’s leading haircare brands – stands accused of covert – if not illegal – information gathering on its global rival Unilever.

Adding credence to the charges, is a report that P&G chairman John Pepper voluntarily flew to Europe last week for a meeting with his opposite number at Unilever, Niall Fitzgerald. The report also alleges that Pepper has admitted P&G’s wrongdoing after matters at its corporate intelligence unit “got out of hand”.

Word is that Unilever now seeks compensation running into tens of millions of pounds sterling – albeit petty cash by the standards of such corporate colossi. If the cash is not on the table by the end of this week, say insiders, court action will follow.

The cloak and dagger affair centres around Unilever’s Elida Fabergé haircare brands, Organics and Sunsilk. P&G spooks are said to have sifted through its rival’s office garbage in a hunt for information on these competing products.

Said an official Unilever statement: “We can confirm that discussions are continuing with P&G regarding their corporate intelligence operation aimed at Unilever in the US.” Concurrently, P&G confirmed it is working with Unilever “to resolve an incident through which it had gained access to some Unilever information”.

According to Fortune Magazine's website, in addition to using private detectives to scour Unilever's garbage, P&G also hired people to pose as market analysts and glean sensitive information.

News source: BBC Online Business News (UK)