HP and Autonomy - the gift that just keeps on giving
A witness for HPE who turned up at the Autonomy trial claiming to have been the British firm’s chief architect was forced to look at his own Linkedin page and admit that his responsibilities were lesser than the job title would suggest. Barrister Richard Hill QC excruciatingly took Fernando Lucini through a series of internal …
Man walks into a local library. "Hello, i'm from HP and do you have the book "Negotiating for Dummies?"
Librarian : "We certainly do Sir, we have two copies on our shelves right now."
Man : "Lovely, i'll take one now."
Librarian : "There you are Sir. It's free to borrow for two weeks but i must add that if it's not returned by the due date there are fines to be paid of £0.50 per week."
Man : "Excellent. Now who do i make this cheque for £5,000,000 out to?"
I'm thinking of replacing the idiom "all sizzle and no steak"1 with "all sparkle and no pony".
Unfortunately I never use "all sizzle and no steak", but it's fun to contemplate. Might also be abbreviated as "ASNP". Nerds could refer to "a pony-sparkle ratio asymptotically approaching zero".
1Or in Texlish, "all hat and no cattle".
"Thinking they were buying a magic sparkle pony to fix their problems when they were just buying a pony."
The way they then try to blow off customers is amusing too - if you're not a customer.
Putting _extremely_ shitty NVME sticks (worse performance than 2011-era sata SSDs) in their latest desktops and selling them as premium product, then accusing customers of lying when they present benchmarks showing how bad the products are, is a great way of winning repeat business.
As is causing more than $100k of damage on one site due to substandard (abrasive) LTO5 tapes and then trying to disclaim all responsibility for the product on the basis of "expired warranty" - on a lifetime warranty product less than 3 years old.
"The majority of Lucini’s evidence consisted of him saying he wasn’t involved at a high enough level in Autonomy’s decision making to shed light on why the company struck certain deals or bought certain products "
So HPE's finally uncovered some genuine fraud in Autonomy then?
How did HPE not spot that they were putting a junior staff member on the stand?
Surely Lucini realized the game would be up if he actually testified? That his former employers might question who is this "senior" person no one has ever heard of?
Also...would it be possible for ElReg to commit too at least a weekly update? For those of us who are desperate for the latest giggles...
If you’re unhappy with the taxpayer funding a little genuine comedy, I guess we may have to take this corporate legal thing private:
- pay per view
- a similar model to today BUT we will spice up the ending. Think of the coliseum only with either business people, lawyers or both confronted with wild animals. If necessary, the lawyers would be tranquillised to prevent any harm to the animals
- for intellectual property cases, the coliseum ending would be moved to the beginning of the case to simplify the arguments.
- if the wealth of source material begins to dry up, a business ethics arbitration system could be added for “finding” more court room “superstars”
It may even have a knock on effect of making a little more ethical? Business I mean, not the wholesale slaughter of those found wanting for entertainment purposes...
As much as I like the idea, one must not forget that this whole mess only concerns HPE, who is crying over the milk it itself spilled.
So random executions may be a tad excessive for a private issue like that.
Brexit, on the hand, has been mismanaged from the start. A few random executions in the lot of politicians that are responsible for that mess would be good.
Not costing the taxpayer a penny.
Its a civil action and loser pays. On current form HP shareholders will be getting a smaller dividend next year.
Nice to see the old country still has some concept of fairness and legal process. I expect HPE was banking on the current US system of "litigant with the most money wins".
> I expect HPE was banking on the current US system of "litigant with the most money wins".
That's a very long standing British Tradition which only occasionally gets upset. (same in the USA too)
Law courts are not (and never have been - despite the claims to be) justice systems and them with the biggest pockets usually prevail.
This is civil proceedings. It should cost the taxpayer nothing. The judge and the court building has to be paid for - but the court fees are supposed to cover that.
Any shortfall is worth it for the amusement value, and I really want to read the judge's summing up:
- is Mike Lynch an innocent Britsh entrepreneur, or a scheming lying bastard?
- did Autonomy lose all that money because he defrauded HP or because HP are incompetent?
- did he defraud HP?
(Note that these questions are not entirely orthogonal, but they aren't the same question either.)
I worked at Autonomy in Cambridge for a number of years, and there’s certain things about the organisation that made it different. Firstly, the company was well known for throwing out grandiose job titles to mid-senior staff... so the technical lead on a product would publicly be the ‘CTO’ of that area. There were 2 or 3 ‘CTOs’ in the Cambridge office alone, but as pointed out here, they were several rungs down from the actual CTO. That said, Fernando was certainly among the most senior staff on the Cambridge site, and was an authority figure at Autonomy. HP haven’t plucked out a mid-level exec from obscurity and put him on the stand, lynch’s lawyers have just been able to take advantage of Autonomy’s peculiar organisational structure.
Secondly, and more broadly, no one at Autonomy outside of the Mike Lynch’s closest inner circle really had any idea what was going beyond the day-to-day, everyone was kept in the dark on everything, to an extent which is actually difficult to convey. Autonomy traditionally hired as junior as possible and had very few experienced executives within the ranks, so no one even knew if they should be asking questions.. the only witnesses of any real value in this trial would be those on Invoke Capital’s board!
For your first point - grandiose job titles in lieu of more pay aren't uncommon. Where Lynch's defence tripped up Mr Lucini was in clearly identifying him as not being senior enough. He was happy to give his opinion on one item, while demonstrating a lack of awareness of the larger overall strategy. He may very well have been right that the $7.6m licence for Discover Engine wasn't justified - however, his lack of knowledge of the larger business makes this largely irrelevant as he isn't able to comment on things such as pending deals that might have justified the purchase of the product. Which significantly dents his credibility.
For your second point, aren't you just highlighting that he was the wrong person to put on the stand?
Regarding the case, I'm waiting to see what HPE has in terms of evidence to back up their claims that they didn't overpay and that the fraud they have uncovered merits the damages they seek. Putting up a lot of claims that are easy to dismiss isn't helping their credibility and the case does not appear to be building up to anything significant - at the moment Lynch hasn't had to provide any real defence of his actions. Maybe there was fraud but unless HP show something genuine, it looks like one giant comedy of errors with the most likely criminals in the case being HP witnesses.
<<Regarding the case, I'm waiting to see what HPE has in terms of evidence to back up their claims that they didn't overpay and that the fraud they have uncovered merits the damages they seek.>>
Uh? don't you mean 'in terms of evidence to back up their claims that they DID overpay'?????
As for the evidence, that's already pretty clear: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cand.305114/gov.uscourts.cand.305114.419.0.pdf
"the conspiracy also included CEO Mike Lynch, as well as Christopher “Stouffer” Egan, Peter Menell, Andy Kanter, and Steve Chamberlain, all executives at Autonomy."
"Uh? don't you mean 'in terms of evidence to back up their claims that they DID overpay'?????"
HP (or at least Leo) suggested Autonomy were worth US$9bn-US$17bn to them and it was only the subsequent fraud that meant they had overpaid. The rest of the world thought they overpaid from their initial offer and never saw the value beyond their market capitalisation. And if HP acknowledge they overpaid, that leads to shareholder lawsuits...
"As for the evidence, that's already pretty clear: https://www.courtlistener.com/recap/gov.uscourts.cand.305114/gov.uscourts.cand.305114.419.0.pdf"
I was thinking of actual evidence rather than a US kangaroo court where US companies dictate the result... In these cases, if you're working for the non-US entity, you're either lucky enough to get off providing evidence for the prosecution (regardless of actual guilt) or you get landed with everything and plea bargain your way down to something vaguely acceptable. Your chances of fighting and winning these cases approaches zero.
I have no doubt HP have been ripped off buying Autonomy, but so far it appears they bid high, that they didn't follow normal due diligence procedures to verify what they were buying and were panicked into the final decision by the fear of Oracle outbidding them rather than following typical acquisition processes. If that was down to Lynch telling Apotheker that the company was "pure play software" over a drink and a nice meal, HP are screwed.
Instead, HP are trying to fend off a huge shareholder lawsuit for screwing up, so instead of chasing genuine fraud, they are trying to paint a picture to explain the missing billions and hopefully pin it on Lynch. And so far, HP's story doesn't add up.
Pretending that a company will make an extra US$250-500m a year in revenue over the next 10-20 years but didn't because of "fraud" when you haven't checked the books and that your hoped for revenue increases implied significant growth leaves a lot of explaining to do.
At a guess, HP appears to have accounted for US$4.5bn+ of the US$5bn fraud through overbidding and maybe, if you're optimistic, Lynch (or at least one or more people in Autonomy) was responsible for practices that accounted for the rest. And those Autonomy practices may not even turn out to have been fraud from a legal perspective.
HP are spending a lot of money buying time.
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