back to article Autonomy's one-time US sales chief can't remember if he took part in grand jury hearing

Autonomy's former US head of sales testified to London's High Court how he took part in a secret US grand jury legal hearing against British software firm Autonomy's chief financial officer. Not only that, but Christopher "Stouffer" Egan also claimed he "can't remember" whether or not he took part in a second grand jury …

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  1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Clarifications on the grand jury system...

    The U.S. grand jury system is not a court. It is an empanelled jury of citizens that considers the prosecution's available case and then decides if there is enough evidence to issue an indictment/go to court for a criminal trial where another jury might render a verdict and punishment could be handed down. The reason grand jury records are private is because it is an investigatory step, where guilt-by-association could come into play if the parties being investigated were announced and a cloud placed over their reputations even if the grand jury ultimately makes the decision that the evidence is not sufficient to warrant an indictment.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: The reason grand jury records are private is because it is an investigatory step

      That might be the reason they're private, doesn't make the coaching look any less dodgy.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Clarifications on the grand jury system...

      The US and Liberia are the only common law jurisdictions to use it. The rest of us have replaced the closed door system with an open court with a judicial figure of some nature in charge (AFAICR it was magistrates in NI). Depending on the case reporting restrictions might be in place but members of the public can see what's happening and defendants not only know about the proceedings but can be represented.

    3. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Clarifications on the grand jury system...

      In practice, the grand jury system is mostly an opportunity for the state to see how its evidence and witnesses look in court. Federal grand juries almost never fail to return an indictment.

      I'm referring to accusatory grand juries, of course, as were you. There are also investigatory grand juries, which are a different kettle of fish. Often a very slowly cooking kettle of fish, since an investigatory grand jury may serve for as long as 18 months, and then may be replaced by another grand jury to continue the investigation.

      Ken White wrote a post or two on popehat about the whole thing a while back.

  2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    IANAL, but HPE really aren't looking good here, neither is the US legal system.

    1. chivo243 Silver badge

      Oh, darling, you don't get it.. They look fantastic to each other, so much so they're sharing the same bed. Help me do it right baby! Oh, ah, that's it, do it again... in front of the court!

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Somebody's going to get screwed anyway.

  3. John H Woods Silver badge

    British Judges ...

    ... can be absolutely brilliant.

    1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

      Re: British Judges ...

      Remember David Bris who after the Apple/Samsung rounded corners case had dragged on for ages in the US, dismissed it in the UK in a couple of sentences?

      It's very hard to buy a British judge.

      1. Nick Kew Silver badge

        Re: British Judges ...

        It's very hard to buy a British judge.

        How quaintly naïve.

        It's all about getting the Right Judge. Which in turn means getting the Right Lawyers, to fix it up for you.

        Harder if the other side is also sufficiently well-lawyered, which I guess must be what you meant.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          Re: British Judges ...

          In Britain, Lawyers are unqualified secretarial types and aren't allowed to appear in court. Solicitors are allowed to appear in court, but Solicitors or Barristers still don't get any say as to which Judge deals with their case unless there is a direct conflict of interest in the case such as the Judge being on the board/owning shares in the company in question, however that is rare, and the Judge would recuse themselves at the point the Judge was picked before it got to court in such a case.

          It's rather rare for anybody to try and change the Judge, simply because it always fails unless there is a geniune reason, which leaves the people who tried pulling a fast one with an awkward situation where they still have the Judge they tried to replace dealing with the case, who is likely to have very little patience with any other underhanded tricks that somebody might try to pull.

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: British Judges ...

            "It's rather rare for anybody to try and change the Judge"

            I've seen it attempted in a criminal case by getting an adjournment when the judge was a known hard sentencer. They got the case put off. Whilst on bail for a burglary the lad got mixed up in a far more serious case. I don't know what he got in the end but it would have been a lot more years than if he'd pleaded guilty to the burglary.

            1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

              Re: British Judges ...

              Interesting down vote there. I couldn't, at this distance of time tell you the date or the defendant's name. I could, however, tell you the name of the original judge, the court where the trial was due to have been held, the nature of the premises burgled (OK, I'll give you that - it was a butcher's shop), the nature of the more serious offence, where it happened and that, AFAICR, the trial for that was in No2 Court, Crumlin Rd. Do you know better?

              1. Voyna i Mor Silver badge

                Re: British Judges ...

                Crumlin Road is in Northern Ireland, not Britain where we have either England & Wales or Scottish law. I was actually careful in my original post - the only comments I have ever heard from NI people on the NI legal system have been, to say the least, uncomplimentary.

        2. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: British Judges ...

          "It's all about getting the Right Judge. Which in turn means getting the Right Lawyers, to fix it up for you.

          Harder if the other side is also sufficiently well-lawyered, which I guess must be what you meant."

          That's how it works in the colonies, not in Great Britain. Whilst you can certainly Lawyer-up in the UK, being rich doesn't otherwise influence the judicial process. Hence why lots of say Russian and other international business disputes are heard in GB.

          1. anonymous boring coward Silver badge

            Re: British Judges ...

            Hasn't UK legal aid been hollowed out by our oh-so lovely Tories?

  4. amanfromMars 1 Silver badge

    Foreign territory's tele-prompter fail outs dodgy shenanigans. Nukes London High Court proceedings?

    Regarding those last two paragraphs ..... in another court, any similar actions would result in a charge of being in contempt of court.

    Or is that a misconception/misperception?

  5. Velv Silver badge
    Pint

    I'm guessing there's going to be a lot of fat Register readers by the end of Summer given the amount of popcorn being consumed...

    1. IT's getting kinda boring

      Good point....

      Just finished one bag - off out to buy another.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Good point....

        Maybe a use for one of those Amazon 'buy this item' buttons (attach it to your remote control)? OK, only kidding, I wouldn't have any Amazon electronics on my land either.

      2. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Good point....

        >Just finished one bag - off out to buy another.

        Well if going out to buy another involves "walking the dog" then a nice balance of reward and exercise.

    2. Nick Kew Silver badge

      Stereotypes

      No popcorn here. Fat enough already.

      Do you think this can rival SCO for keeping geekdom hooked? To be honest, I'd be surprised: that was so much more important.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        It was certainly important, but after a decade it got thoroughly boring.

        1. Peter2 Silver badge

          And everybody involved knew dammed well that they didn't have a case.

          This is rather more ambigious.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Stereotypes

        I doubt it will ever get to the entertainment value of Judge Wright's handling of Prenda Law. I rather miss that one now it's finally over.

        1. TheVogon Silver badge

          Re: Stereotypes

          "I doubt it will ever get to the entertainment value of Judge Wright's handling of Prenda Law"

          Oh it gets way better over here. Try for starters "I refer you to the answer given in the case of Arkell vs Pressdram."

      3. stiine Bronze badge
        Flame

        Re: Stereotypes

        Or Steele & Hansmeier and their friends at Prenda Law?

  6. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
    Meh

    Did Egan just basically admit to perjuring himself on behalf of US prosecutors? Or am I reading too much into that?

    (I'm not trying to make a joke here, I'm genuinely confused and hoping someone who understands this a bit better can enlighten me)

    1. anothercynic Silver badge

      If he's American, he can do whatever he likes, clearly... as long as he never flies to London, or through London to Europe. Somehow I don't think the UK will ever demand an extradition on the basis of a contempt of court charge. ;-)

      1. Claverhouse Bronze badge

        Or we could do a straight swap: 'You people drop your made-up cases against Julian, we'll not prosecute this American'.

      2. GrapeBunch Bronze badge

        Antonyoyo

        Flagrant contempt of court was shown by the US lawyer with Egan. He's the one who stopped the proceedings. He did not ask permission. Slightly less flagrant would have been to cut the transmission without warning, click.

        US prosecutors seem to have used Pavlovian conditioning on Egan. I thought that only happened in police procedural TV shows, with the young cop saying "you can't do that", and the old wizened cop replying "just watch me", "this is how you get a confession" or making his reply a slap on the suspect's person, whilst keeping shtum. Whatever. The admissibility of Pavlovian conditioning (you could call it a form of torture) does not reflect any virtue upon the USA legal system. "Countrymen, I come to praise it." [exit stage left].

  7. Flak

    Who needs a soap opera...

    ...when this trial delivers it all - twists, turns, hilarity - and high stakes! Episode after episode.

    Thank you for the digest - it would be much harder to get this kind of detail otherwise.

    1. FozzyBear Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: Who needs a soap opera...

      I wonder what the season one cliff hanger is going to be ?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Who needs a soap opera...

        IF HPE get their way, it'll be a cliff hanging.

  8. Peter2 Silver badge

    ** Halfway through Egan's evidence, one of the attorneys sitting with him, on the US end of the video link, declared that there had been a problem and asked the High Court, "Can we take a break please?"

    The court – including the judge – remained dead silent as people on screen began fiddling with the video link from Egan's end. The witness himself got up and wandered off. More techies appeared on screen, one announcing: "I'm sorry, this is being looked at right now." Someone then disconnected the US end of the link, blanking the screens in the courtroom.

    "I found the witness most interesting," muttered Mr Justice Hildyard, pointedly studying his fingertips as his courtroom ground to a halt with the witness on the stand walking away without the judge's permission or even involvement. A few lawyers laughed nervously.

    So, the American lawyers declared that there was a technical problem with what appears to have been a perfectly working bit of equipment to prematurely terminate questioning from a case in the High Court because the questioning was revealing that witnesses had been coached as to the correct answers to questions they had to give. If that one is pulled much then it's going to mean the end of attendance via video links in court, especially if the witness is coached on how he answers before he gets to give evidence again.

    Isin't witness tampering a crime in America?

    1. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      That damn book again.

      Isin't witness tampering a crime in America?

      Depends who's witness it is I guess.. But previously we heard that Autonomy used 'every trick in the book' to pad it's sales. And their US CEO.. I mean head of sales knew absolutely nothing about this. I guess pointed questions about regional revenue reporting and recognition might be why some witnesses are reluctant to appear in our jurisdiction.

      (Oh, and books.. I found an old book called 'Accounting for Growth', published pre-.Com and explaining a lot of these tricks that still appear today. But let's not spoil an Uber-sized valuation.

    2. david 12 Bronze badge

      The obvious implication is that they had problems with their view of the British court. Being able to see/hear the judge/court/tribunal is actually a very import factor in the behaviour of witnesses, and the tribunal would get a dangerously distorted view of the behaviour of the witness if the back channel did not work correctly.

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    It's a very interesting comparison between the two legal systems, especially as regards the operation of the grand jury. On this side of the pond we got rid of them some time ago in favour of preliminary hearings, usually, as far as I can remember, in front of a magistrate and in open court. I wonder what impression the US system is making on the judge.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Not a very good one. Far be it for me to presume the goings on in our Judge's internal deliberations, but I don't think he's forming a good impression of the prosecution case.

      1. DavCrav Silver badge

        "I don't think he's forming a good impression of the prosecution case."

        I think he might be forming the opinion that they don't have one. This is going to make extradition proceedings for Lynch quite difficult, because if, as I suspect, this gets thrown out with some harsh words about the US 'evidence', this will be brought up at his extradition hearing.

    2. BebopWeBop Silver badge

      Yup, 1933. There's an amusing article here - https://www.pri.org/stories/2014-12-04/england-abolished-grand-juries-decades-ago-because-they-didnt-work - summary in the title. Their structure was considered to be handing an open goal to the prosecution (a bit like plea bargaining USA)

  10. Symon Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Re: Picture. Are they auctioning something off?

    https://fullfact.org/law/no-gavels-please-were-british/

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Re: Picture. Are they auctioning something off?

      US case heavily referenced during this hearing involved gavels. Nice try but your pedantry fails you.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Picture. Are they auctioning something off?

        But the judge is in the UK.

        Maybe they used a gavel to give the video-link kit percussive maintenance. But would that have been before or after it went faulty?

  11. Aqua Marina

    This going to end up where simultaneously, The defendants are found to be the greatest criminal masterminds of all time in the US, whilst over in the UK HP is found to be the IT equivalent of the Keystone Cops.

    I'd go out on a limb here and say that at all costs, the US courts will always ensure that blame for anything always resides with foreigners.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      “whilst over in the UK HP is found to be the IT equivalent of the Keystone Cops.”

      No chance - once Lynch’s legal team tire of shooting fish in a barrel, I suspect they may speed up proceedings by showing pictures of an arse and an elbow and only questioning those that correctly identify each item.

      And no, “Leo” is not considered a correct answer.

      Nor is “my reflection” Mr Apotheker.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One law for them, another for US business

    "Earlier in the day Egan had denied, in the High Court, that HPE had held off from suing him over the Autonomy writedown in order to secure damning testimony to bring down Lynch and Hussain, strongly denying Miles' assertion that "the way to protect yourself is to provide the prosecution with the evidence they want, to blame Mr Hussain and now to blame Dr Lynch."

    US business law has always sided with either the US business in multinational cases or the US business with the most money in domestic cases, we wouldn't want to re-write precedent now...

  13. Paul Johnson 1
    Stop

    Caught between two legal systems?

    Obviously this is speculation, but its quite possible that the second Grand Jury (the "I don't recall" one) is still sealed, so he can't tell anyone about it under US law. However when on the witness stand in the UK he was required to answer all questions fully and honestly. By claiming forgetfulness he could avoid breaking US law. If he was lying about his lack of memory then of course that would be perjury, but in the absence of mind-reading it could not be proved.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Caught between two legal systems?

      It's even stranger than that since he was "on the stand" in the UK only by video link so not actually within the courts jurisdiction. I'm not even sure if his oath had any validity under UK law. (did he even swear an oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Caught between two legal systems?

        "the whole truth"

        Or as much of it as he can remember.

        This element of the oath always worried me. As a witness one can only respond to the questions asked. If neither asks for a relevant fact then the fact might not get into the evidence and if a witness were attempt to volunteer it the counsel who the fact doesn't favour might object.

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