Whatever the outcome
Deloitte, KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young will all be exonerated from any wrongdoing and all will retain their fees. As usual.
Trebles all round!
HP-owned software house Autonomy faces more probing, this time by the Financial Reporting Council (FRC). The British corporate governance watchdog announced today it will investigate allegations that the Brit biz overinflated its value by $5bn just before Hewlett-Packard bought it in 2011. HP's buy-up of Autonomy for $10.7bn …
To be fair the AADB (the bit of the FRC that does the disciplining, do a search if you really care about the details) does look at these things, and is currently in the throes of legal action against Deloitte over a case. Unfortunately there's two important points that case raises:
First it pertains to the collapse of MG Rover in 2005, so there's probably no meaningful penalty that a professional oversight body can now apply to people who were well paid and are now mostly comfortably retired on a generous and undeserved pension (unlike the Rover employees). If the wheels of justice grind this slowly, then they might as well not bother grinding at all.
Second, the reason for this case at all is that Deloitte don't want to abide by the decision of the AADB on MG Rover, so it's QC's at dawn. Not much point in having a professional oversight body if the overseen industry will go to any lengths to avoid outcomes that it doesn't like. I do hope Deloitte lose, but given the dismal standard to which British legislation is drafted I don't have much confidence that they will.
One of the reasons I liked Autonomy was that they were quite happy to explain "unofficially" how they'd nailed down the various twirly audit trails and pinned them on the Enron bosses who actually did the dirty deeds. One of the few major corporate frauds where the principals actually did some time, and paid some wopping fines. So it's not beyond the bounds of cynicism to posit that shafting Autonomy would cast a less than favourable light on its products. While I personally think the basic Idol meaning-based engine is much of a commercial muchness, some of their deep mining kit is very slick.
Their forensic search software requires some complex strings to get the ball rolling, but it adds a couple of layers that index probabilities and look for what I'd loosely describe as "reliable negatives", which is what happens when smug ne'erdowells use idiotic codewords for their dubious behaviours, which make it obvious that something iffy is afoot. Sophistry falls apart when analysed intelligently.
I fear that I'd be opening up Vulture Central to litigation if I wrote what I personally know of one of these companies' previous catastrophic attempts to rollout HP flagship db products, not once but twice, so I'll let you knowledgable insiders join the dots. Suffice to say that the lucky ratepayers ended up footing the seven figure bills. It's one of those arse and elbow tales that HP's current wave of redundancies might just cause to leak into the public domain.
If you have a piece of kit in your armoury that can root through all the landfill on a vast corporate network in a couple of days, while simultaneously auditing all of the systematic QA fails and rooting out some executive slackers, it's quite possible that it will be seen as a threat to a whole sector of the corporate gravy train. I think there's much more to this whole murky business than meets the eye, especially in light of the cast of players, whose hefty fees must surely have added a massive wedge to the final sum.
Anon, because I have no wish to lose friends in low places.
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