$9bn Autonomy scam at Hewlett-Packard

Nov 21 2012, 11:18 IST
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HP takes $8.8 bn charge, blames Autonomy. (Reuters) HP takes $8.8 bn charge, blames Autonomy. (Reuters)
SummaryHewlett-Packard stunned Wall Street by alleging a massive accounting scandal.


HP alleged that Autonomy's former management inflated revenue and gross margins to mislead potential buyers. It said Autonomy executives mischaracterized revenue from low-end hardware sales as software sales and booked some licensing deals with partners as revenue, even though no customer bought products.

HP said Autonomy claimed its gross margins were in the 40 percent to 45 percent range while realistically they were in the 28 percent to 30 percent range.

Moreover, Autonomy always represented itself as a software firm but 10 percent to 15 percent of its revenue came from money-losing sales of low-end hardware, HP said.

The company also claimed that Autonomy was booking licensing revenue upfront before deals closed.

HP has embarked on an internal investigation, including a forensic review by PricewaterhouseCoopers of Autonomy's historical financial results, under HP General Counsel John Schultz after the whistleblower came forward in May.

Schultz said since the accounting troubles occurred prior to the acquisition of Autonomy, it took a long time before HP was in a position to make the news public.

"Not surprisingly, Autonomy did not have sitting on a shelf somewhere a set of well-maintained books that would walk you through what was actually happening from a financial perspective inside the company," he said. "Indeed critical documents were missing from the obvious places, and it required that we look in every nook and cranny."

Whitman said her predecessor, Leo Apotheker and the former chief strategy officer, Shane Robison, were the key people behind the Autonomy acquisition.

Apotheker bought Autonomy to diversify HP's business and beef up its portfolio to provide one-stop shopping for corporations. The $11 billion acquisition of Autonomy - heavily criticized by investors as too costly - was a key part of the plan to transform HP.

Apotheker was ousted as CEO in September 2011 after just 11 months on the job and Robison left soon after.

In a statement, Apotheker said he was "stunned and disappointed" by the revelations and offered to make himself available to HP and the authorities to get to the bottom of the matter.

Whitman on Tuesday stood by Autonomy's technology and products despite the allegations, saying it will be the growth engine for HP. The former California gubernatorial candidate has been trying to move beyond some of HP's past controversies, which includes the ouster of the past two CEOs, a haphazard product strategy and a plan to sell its PC unit that was later dropped.

HP has been running Autonomy since the

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