$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.

acquisition closed in October 2011, but it didn't find the accounting problems on its own. The company investigated only after a senior Autonomy executive came forward to detail the financial metrics surrounding Autonomy.

Advisers working on behalf of Autonomy included Qatalyst Partners, the investment bank run by technology investment banker Frank Quattrone; UBS; Goldman Sachs; Citigroup; JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America. Perella Weinberg Partners and Barclays Capital advised for HP.

Law firms for Autonomy were Slaughter & May and Morgan Lewis. The firms for HP included Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Drinker Biddle & Reath; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

Robert Enderle, a tech analyst at the Enderle Group, said he has never seen such a potential misrepresentation of financials.

"You have to rely on what the firm gives you during due diligence and I've never seen a misstatement at this level," Enderle said.

If the charges are true, it could result in a massive punitive damages award for HP, Enderle said.

Other analysts hoped it was the end of the bad news for HP.

"This kind of feels like the last of the bad news," Forrester analyst Frank Gillett said.


The Autonomy allegations and announcement of the charge coincided with the reporting of a fiscal fourth-quarter loss for HP.

HP said net revenue fell 6.7 percent to $29.96 billion for the quarter, ended October 31, from $32.12 billion a year earlier. Analysts, on average, expected $30.43 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue from all of its main business units declined, with the personal computer division recording the steepest drop, at 14 percent while revenue from printing fell 5 percent.

HP reported a quarterly net loss of $6.85 billion, or $3.49 a share, versus a profit of $239 million, or 12 cents, a year earlier.

The sprawling company, which employs more than 300,000 people globally, is undergoing a restructuring aimed at focusing on enterprise services in the mold of International Business Machines Corp

"To put it bluntly ... this story has been an unmitigated train wreck, and it seems every time management speaks to the Street, there is new negative incremental information forthcoming," said ISI Group analyst Brian Marshall.

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