updated 10:24 pm EDT, Mon March 11, 2013
Accounting irregularities at heart of investigation
According to regulatory documents filed Monday, UK law enforcement has opened up an investigation into HP's claims that it was badly misled when it acquired software developer Autonomy. The inquiry by the UK Serious Fraud Office mirrors that of the US Department of Justice investigation that started at the end of 2012, after HP accused Autonomy of deceitful accounting and forged sales records.
Mike Lynch, the former CEO of Autonomy, has strongly denied allegations by HP that his former company had engaged in "serious accounting improprieties" and willfully misled shareholders regarding its financials. Lynch is reportedly sitting down with former clients of Autonomy in order to sort out the numerous charges HP has leveled against the company and its former management. A good deal of Lynch's protest appears to hinge on differences in accounting standards between American firms and some firms based in other countries.
HP charges that Autonomy was booking licensing revenue upfront before deals had closed, inflating its revenue beyond what the company had actually received. Further, HP says that Autonomy mischaracterized revenue from low-margin hardware sales as software sales. Autonomy would, in the past, sell hardware systems to some customers and take a loss on the sale in exchange for the client agreeing to market some Autonomy products. These transactions were charged as marketing expenses, and Lynch maintains that they accounted for less than two percent of total revenues.
In November, HP had made its own discovery of potential fraud at the software developer, and submitted evidence to federal regulators following a write-down of $8 billion of the value of the company, for which it paid $11 billion a little over a year ago.