back to article HP: Autonomy had us believing in a false IDOL

HP has laid out the "accounting improprieties and misrepresentations" allegedly used by Autonomy to inflate its value just before HP bought the British biz. Hapless Hewlett-Packard yesterday took an $8.8bn bath on the acquisition following the findings of an internal probe. It said a senior member of Autonomy's leadership team …


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  1. Chris Miller

    Due diligence?

    We've heard of it.

  2. a well wisher

    Lawyers ears prick up !

    At least the lawyers will make killing out of this

    Since theres no doubt about it - Someones going to get sued !

  3. Ted Treen

    I don't suppose...

    ...I can just repeat the phrase "Caveat emptor"...

    Also, Mike Lynch DOES have a point:- there's nothing like a lovely distraction when you're about to release some bum trading figures.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't suppose...

      I'd much rather listen to some anonymous hp astroturfer....

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: I don't suppose...

        AC #1:

        I'd take anything Mike says which a massive pinch of salt, he couldn't even remember trying to dump his company on Oracle with similarly inflated value.


        I'd much rather listen to some anonymous hp astroturfer....

        Dear AC #2,

        1. At least AC #1 provided relevant reference material.

        2. Criticizing an AC while posting anonymously yourself? Really? Have you ever head of the term hypocrisy? Pick a pseudonym and use it. As a bonus, you also get to use the wonderful comment icons (sample to the left).

        Dear Register,

        Love the expandable comment edit box! When did that come in? Now if you'd just let me do that with the article body so I don't have 1/4 of my screen wasted with a gray background ; P

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Steve Knox, 17:15

          I always reply anonymously to anonymous posts. or comments about anonymous posts I've made, obv. The majority of my posts aren't anonymous though.

          I do it because anonymous posters irritate me and I think they should get a name. Instead of moaning about it I take non-violent direct action. I sometimes try and interject when an ac is arguing with a named poster just to show how confusing it makes things.

          Yes, I should probably get out more.

          1. Steve Knox

            Re: @Steve Knox, 17:15

            I always reply anonymously to anonymous posts...because anonymous posters irritate me and I think they should get a name.

            Think about the logicl of that for 5 seconds, please. And if you don't see the problem, think again. If you still don't see the problem, kindly FO.

            (Here's a hint: it only reinforces my allegation of hypocrisy.)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Question of maginitude

      Is HP honestly expecting people to believe that if the channel stuffing and hardware resell did not occur that $10 billion would have been a fair price, but now that a few million of hardware was sold on software contracts and some revenue was potentially booked early by selling it to the channel, they think a fair price is $1 billion. These two, relatively minor, discrepancies account for $9 billion or so worth of value? HP massively overpaid for this company as everyone said from day one. Now they are trying to make people look at a few trees so they don't see the forest.

  4. Colin Millar

    This Homer Simpson moment is brought to you courtesy of HP

    "HP now believes Autonomy was substantially overvalued at the time of its acquisition"

  5. Piro

    How about you..

    .. study what you're buying when you spend that much money? It's called common sense.

    Maybe when everyone is saying "oh HP, you always make overpriced acquisitions and fail to make good use of them" then maybe you should listen.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: How about you..

      I recall that in about 2008, with the economy tanking, an AA survey suggested that only one person in eight considered economy or running costs when buying a car. Perhaps this generally cavalier attitude extends to other areas of the economy.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Srs. Business.

    HP obviously believe they've been shafted here, given that they've just mightily crapped upon Autonomy's products and brand. Who's going to buy em now? 75% markdown? They may as well have written off the entire cost of acquisition, given their actions. But then, given that they spanked $12bn on Autonomy in the first place, I guess it would be unwise to assume that HP knows what it is doing.

    Still, there may yet be silver linings... I'm hoping that the auditors get royally shafted here. Seldom do Deloitte and KPMG get the public kicking they so richly deserve.

  7. Anonymous Coward 101

    My reading

    Autonomy were a mess of a company. HP screwed up royally in buying them, and feel that the value of shouting about fraud is greater than the value of not doing so. Many financial blogs at the time said this was a very bad move. Please see the fine Bronte Capital blog posting today:

    1. Philip Lewis

      Re: My reading

      AC101 - that link has "disappeared"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Brontecapital article/blogpost

        It's still around. Rather than following the posted link as a URL, stick it into your favourite search engine and you should still find it.

        E.g. I found it at

        It begins:

        "A few weeks ago I presented at the Santangels conference in New York. The conference was held under Chatham House rules.

        My topic: how to fake your accounts from the perspective of the fraudster (and hence how as an investor to tell if a company is faking its accounts).

        At the end I suggested that even if you were right and the company was a fraud you could still short the stock and lose money - someone with deep pockets might buy the fraud. The example I gave was Autonomy which was purchased by Hewlett Packard.

        Yesterday Hewlett Packard admitted that Autonomy was a grotesque fraud. They wrote off most of the purchase price."

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: Brontecapital article/blogpost

          "E.g. I found it at"

          Interesting read.

          Looks like the Accounting function at HP (who presumably oversaw the due diligence from the HP end) can't add up.

          Not good when you' re splashing that kind of cash.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Brontecapital article/blogpost

            I read the article yesterday; from memory, it mentions that due diligence was overseen at HP at one time (at the time of the bid?) not by Finance but by Technology (Shane Robison?).

            Then again you'd have thought any technologist with a clue would have seen right through the Autonomy hype anyway. After all, if the FT Alphavile folks had known for years that there was little more to it than smoke and mirrors, why wouldn't HP's finest?

            Brewery. Organise. Etc.

  8. MrT


    ...HP went shopping with $9 billion in it's pocket and absolutely had to spend it. Why? Were they joping for a massive tax write-off? Whether they got suckered by valuations or ignored warning bells, they now claim it's someone else's fault that they chose to spend all that money. They didn't have to sign the deal, but this sounds like they wanted to buy something that would be instant profit to offset some of the shocking choices they've made recently. When it turned out that it would need a bit of effort to integrate, HP upper management went into default blame mode. HP is like a supertanker powered by tiny oars where all the divisions are rowing in different directions, none of it coordinated, and the captains argue about what colour the dining table should be.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The HP track record

      Wasn't CF on the verge of buying three executive jets for herself? Then there's the webOS fiasco, EDS, the near sell off of the PC division, and now this. I imagine Autonomy's defence is going to be "this is HP we're talking about, mLud, self-extraction from wet paper bag with sharp knife not guaranteed".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Maybe now Oracle can buy HP, and get Autonomy thrown in for free? Corporate buy one, get one free.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A friend of mine from school days got a job with KPMG

    And he's ignored my attempts to get in touch for the last 5.5years, for no good reason that I know of. So whilst I have no experience of them (the last I heard he was involved with DLR auditing as I was doing a uni project where passenger number logging would be of interest) it wouldn't matter to me if they did get a kicking in public.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A friend of mine from school days got a job with KPMG

      A school friend of mine went off to PricewaterhouseCoopers, and despite trying to get in touch over 10 years, he's ignoring me too. Maybe something happens when you join these types of corporations, like, disappearing up your own arse?

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Buyer beware

    Surely when buying big previously owned items like this there is an amount of buyer beware and no guarantees on fitness for use.

    Did they not slap a standard MS license clause on the front of it before the sale went ahead?

    Well done to a British company for shafting a big US one :)

  12. Captain

    The oldest trick in the book

    "The other major bone of contention is the reporting of licensing deals with resellers rather than with end-customers. HP said this was to 'inappropriately accelerate revenue recognition, or worse create revenues where no-end user customer existed at the time of sale'."

    Isn't this the first thing any due diligence ought to pick up? It has been historically commonplace with software companies.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "It has been historically commonplace with software companies."

    I thought it even went back somewhat further than that, and was generally known as "stuffing the channel" - a topic which even has a Wikipedia entry dating back to 2005.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And before that

      Wasn't there a software company in the 1990s (in the days of boxed software) that was found to have a warehouse full of bricks in boxes, that formed part of their supposed assets?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    HPs riskiest move yet

    HP is over. Anyone want to wager how long before it gets bought or ripped apart or both ?

    Methinks 18 months.

    Still maybe Whitmans high risk blame and all bad news together strategy will work.

  15. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    SOP for Microsoft


    But seriously *multi* $Bn. How much does a license for this software *cost*?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Appears to be changing his tune

      "Mike Lynch, the British software entrepreneur at the centre of the accounting scandal that has rocked Hewlett-Packard, has admitted to having used some of the practices that led the US company to level charges of accounting irregularities."

  16. The Godfather

    Bum Steer..

    HP knew it was paying over the over the odds in terms of value, that's why it allocated 6.8bn as goodwill on the balance sheet. A write down of 5bn is far in excess of any reputed dodgy figures.

    In buying EDS, Palm and Autonomy, it spent some 26bn and has written down around 19bn. That's a pretty woeful record of paying over the odds for companies, not knowing what to do with them and losing their value, because of too many changes at the top table with differing and conflicting views and direction. The rot in fairness started when Mark Hurd was forced to leave but HP as a business has lost its way badly.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Bum Steer..

      "In buying EDS, Palm and Autonomy, it spent some 26bn and has written down around 19bn. "

      So they've taken $19Bn dollars of *shareholder* money (either the money could have paid to shareholders as dividends or the charges on the loans they raised will be met out of money that *could* have gone to shareholders) and basically flushed it down the pan.

      Sounds like some of those shareholders should lawyer up as well and administer some "Conrad Black" style discipline to the board.

      Gimp mask because on *that* basis that's pretty much what's happened to the stockholders.

      1. The Godfather

        Re: Bum Steer..

        Precisely...which is why I suspect Lawyers will now be looking for work on behalf of shareholders....

        1. The Godfather

          Re: Bum Steer..

          One further point, the goodwill still on the balance sheets far exceeds HP market capitalization currently..!

          1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

            Re: Bum Steer..

            "One further point, the goodwill still on the balance sheets far exceeds HP market capitalization currently..!"

            And you know what happens to companies whose assets are worth *substantially* more than their market capitalization?

            I hear the folk at OpCapita are at a bit of a loose end since Comet "unfortunately" went down the pan.

            There's still a few nice chunks left that they could "release the value" of.

            Coat as I think sensible HP staffers should be considering putting on theirs and going out the door.

  17. json

    So is PWC washing their hands on this?

    .. multi million dollar contract to do the audit and this? awkward...

  18. plrndl

    Headless Chicken

    In the entrepreneurial stakes, I'd back a headless chicken over HP's management every time. It's a miracle HP still has any staff or products to trade at all.

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