back to article Accounting expert told judge Autonomy was wrong not to disclose hardware sales

HPE's accounting expert told the High Court that making "significant sales of hardware" and burying them in its accounts meant Mike Lynch's Autonomy may have given "the impression" sales growth "was in its core software business". As the dust settles from the Autonomy trial itself, The Register has taken a look at the expert …

  1. quattroprorocked

    Peter Holgate is correct

    Hardware sales should have been broken out.

    OTOH, HPE should have asked for this as soon as they realised that hardware sales were even a thing, which should have happened during due diligence.

    I guess the judge will be deciding whether stupidity or sharp practice is the bigger sin.

    1. macjules Silver badge

      Re: Peter Holgate is correct

      HPE: "What is due diligence?"

      KPMG: "It's where we say 'Yes, it ok to buy this company' and you sue Mike Lynch years later"

      HPE; "But what if you are wrong?"

      KPMG: "Then we get another of the Big 4 to testify in court that we did nothing wrong"

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Re: Peter Holgate is correct

        My understanding was that KPMG said "we'll let you know in a bit whether it's OK to buy this company", and HPE said "eh, you'll probably say it's all right, so we're going ahead now".

  2. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
    Pint

    margins

    I thought most bits of software have low margins (i.e You purchase or rent a central piece of software and you pay lots for modules required to make proper use of said software, like most ERP systems)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: margins

      Nope. Software typically operates on an 85+% margin. Hardware is much more pedestrian, in the 10-15% range. Or zero, if you happen to be slinging the hardware on an appliance basis in order to support the software you want people to be running on it.

      1. adam 40 Bronze badge

        Re: margins

        However, if you hare hoofing in the hardware sales with the software, then the overall average margin comes down.

        It's not like you can pretend that the hardware also has an 85% margin. Your "cost of sales" will show this up immediately.

        Like the judge says, if the hardware is an enabler for the software sales, then why break it out separately?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: margins

          That depends if the cost of the hardware is accurately reflected in the cost of sale, if they are doing something really funky like using the hardware sales to inflate revenue numbers but hiding the actual cost of the hardware somewhere like a marketing budget then it could perhaps result in average margins looking significantly more healthy than they actually are.

          A previous employer of mine who shall remain nameless was found out to be doing lots of dodgy things like side letters and large contra deals, stuffing the channel etc. and having to write off quite a lot of bad deals, they then buried those costs in goodwill related to the acquisitions they were doing, they were eventually found out and some people went to prison off the back of it.

      2. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: margins

        For off the shelf software yes.

        For this sort of stuff, most of the money is from support contracts, and you have to employ a lot of highly paid people to service them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: margins

          "For this sort of stuff, most of the money is from support contracts, and you have to employ a lot of highly paid people to service them."

          This is a common misconception from stuff lower down in the depths of the channel, where the sale of the licenses is distinct from the ongoing support. At this end of the market (i.e. the "how many millions are you planning to spend with us this quarter" end) the two are integral - a customer without support is a customer that doesn't come back.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: margins

            >where the sale of the licenses is distinct from the ongoing support.

            The issue is surely: what is being accounted for as 'software' sales within the constraints of IFRS & IAS18.

            For enterprise clients over the years, where I have been involved in the procurement, they have tended to pay peanutsrelatively little for software and hardware (ie. goods), but lots in annual licenses and maintenance and support fees (ie. services).

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: margins

      Captain Scarlet,

      Margins here are considered from the point of view of the company selling the software.

  3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Are you sure?

    That you don't have 'PJ' (Pamela Jones) of Groklaw fame working for you? These are the sort of reports she excelled in.

    Well done El Reg.

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Are you sure?

      Seconded! As a dyed-in-the-wool law geek I get a little thrill of pleasure when I see a new article on this case :-) Keep up the truly excellent work, folks, and don't forget these! - - - >

  4. Steve K Silver badge

    Working Papers

    “Working Papers” are the detail from the audit team’s investigation, which will then be summarised (by the audit manager) into a note for the Audit Partner to sign off/reject with a request for further info to be gathered. This will be filed at the end of the audit to provide the audit trail for the audit opinion, should it be needed (and for internal audit QA).

    In my day (pre-1993) it was all paper, but will now be largely electronic/document managed.

    I would be inclined to go with MacGregor as he has seen the working papers and can hence follow the logic on the opinion on the Accounting treatment, rather than Holgate who has been briefed by HPE (but not seen them).

    With the audit trail at least you can see WHY the Deloitte opinion was arrived at, whether or not you agree with it.

  5. msage

    Auditors....

    OK, so if HP are right, why didn't their auditors pick this up and explain it to them during the due-diligence? I mean HP are basing their *whole* case on them not doing the due-diligence properly? Unless Autonomy lied or obstructed the auditors, which I have seen no evidence they did through the regs coverage. From the beginning of this case, it's confused me.

    HP are basically saying that autonomy over inflated their sales, given the cost of the take over you would think the financial auditors would have picked this up before the sale, if not surely they weren't doing their job properly (so HP should be suing them - I suspect this might be part II). And yet magically after the deal doesn't look so good for HP they suddenly discover that the same financials they had access to show something totally different?

    The whole thing stinks of buyers remorse, I am not sure how HP have managed to get it this far.

    1. Franco Silver badge

      Re: Auditors....

      According to a witness statement HP knew about the hardware sales and that it was predominantly a loss-leader to drive hardware sales, and HP themselves said it was all "product" and so shouldn't be separated.

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2020/01/06/autonomy_hardware_accounted_marketing_witness/

      All the stories I've read about this (via El Reg's highly entertaining articles and even more entertaining responses from commentards) suggest that HP's argument is based on that they did not receive any orders and Captain Blackadder did not shoot this delicious plump breasted pigeon.

    2. oiseau Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Auditors....

      ... if HP are right, why didn't their auditors pick this up and explain it to them during the due-diligence?

      Due diligence?

      After all that I've read about this, it does not seem to me that HPE knew or had a clue as to what due-diligence actually means.

      Or maybe they knew but did not give a shit.

      And just wanted to (for whatever reason) go ahead with the deal.

      O.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Auditors....

        HPE just didn't give a shit. Leo admitted he didn't read the due diligence report.

        1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: Auditors....

          IIRC, he admitted he didn't read the preliminary due-diligence report. He pushed the sale through before the final one could be completed.

      2. Robert Grant

        Re: Auditors....

        Due diligence, and audit in general, seems a bit of a joke. Or do we only hear about it when it doesn't work?

        1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

          Re: Auditors....

          It isn't at all uncommon for people to pull out of deals at the due dil stage. That was the final nail in the coffin for Enron, for example.

          Auditing, on the other hand, is just widely misunderstood. It doesn't do what people think it does, and when something comes out that people think should be, but isn't actually supposed to be covered by auditing, people criticise the auditors.

          An audit checks that a set of accounts fairly and accurately represents a business's stated financial position. It doesn't check whether that position has been fraudulently mis-stated.

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            Re: Auditors....

            Correct - “a true and fair view” which is itself an opinion, within the constraints of the relevant GAAP/IFRS/etc.

            UK GAAP leaves room for judgement, rather than defining a set of account codes in micro detail against which transactions are posted. The flip side to this is that the judgement can be subjective (but based on available evidence obtained which could be fabricated), rather than “this widget invoice should have gone to line 12345 as per regulation 24.4b” (star fleet officers may not urinate in the lift at weekends, I think).

            The purpose of an audit is NOT to detect fraud. This was drummed in from the equivalent of Audit 101 when I began my audit training in 1990 at C&L).

            The auditors can not control whether company officers are presenting false information, but fraud could be detected (as a by-product) if evidence does not stack up, or the opinion could be “qualified” if sufficient information cannot be obtained to back up material items (I.e. those that would alter the opinion).

            HPE are alleging that Lynch etc. acted fraudulently, and Lynch etc. are saying that it was nothing of the sort.

            Deloitte (via their audit opinion) appear to back up Lynch so HPE seem to be clutching at straws...

    3. MalIlluminated

      Re: Auditors....

      I'm thinking of the $60 crap HP printer that my grandparents bought themselves because it had "3x Higher Print Quality" and half-a-dozen stupidly-named "technologies" like ColorMagic or NanoNozzle or whatever. I'm thinking about how it printed around ten pages on the included cartridges, and then required another $60 worth of ink to be "usable" again. And I'm thinking about how it failed not two months after the warranty expired.

      From where I sit, maybe Autonomy did write something like "100x More Profitable!" on the outside of the box. Maybe the Autonomy technology just boiled down to a bunch of buzzwords. Maybe HP bought a real @#$& printer that seemed like a good value, but made them feel ripped-off after a week or two.

      Well, at least I know what HP would do, if it happened to them.

    4. ManMountain1

      Re: Auditors....

      "HPE should have spotted it" isn't a defence against the wrong doing of Autonomy ... even if they really should have spotted it.

      1. defiler Silver badge

        Re: Auditors....

        You're right, in much the same way as somebody stealing my car when I'm not looking isn't exactly my fault.

        But if I'm buying a car from someone, and it's bright yellow and covered in Chiquita stickers, it should be a reasonable clue that it is, in fact, a banana with wheels on it. If Autonomy just had the figures laid out, without obviously malicious obfuscation, and in a way that an independent accountant could look through them and establish (within reason) what was what, then it falls upon HPE to understand what they're purchasing.

        Anyway, that's my opinion. The important opinion is that of the Court.

        1. ibmalone Silver badge
          1. defiler Silver badge

            Re: Auditors....

            And, once again, the internet fails to disappoint.

            1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

              Re: Auditors....

              But that's not "covered" in stickers...

              1. ibmalone Silver badge
      2. Bernard

        Re: Auditors....

        That’s true in the case of clear fraud, which is why so much effort is being spent by both sides to position that this either is or isn’t within the acceptable bounds of accounting.

        If it is, even if it’s teetering on the margin, then caveat emptor applies and this is why due diligence exists.

        If it’s deemed to be actual fraudulent accounting then HP’s case has merit, although even then the judge may decide that the material impact of the fraud doesn’t justify the size of HP’s suit and cut down the penalty.

    5. katrinab Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Auditors....

      The reason HP aren't suing their auditors is because their auditors told them that the asking price was too high, just like Oracle's auditors did when Oracle walked away.

      It was obvious to everyone, including El Reg commentards.

  6. Gordon 10 Silver badge
    WTF?

    This sums up HPE's argument

    "my opinions are given on the basis of the facts I have been instructed to assume".

    The HPE expert witness was told to assume there was dodgy dealing.

    The Lynch expert accounting witness actually read the operational accounting policies for Autonomy.

    If you were a wearer of a big powdery wig - who would you give more weight to?

  7. a pressbutton Silver badge

    Hmm

    Peter Holgate: - "my opinions are given on the basis of the facts I have been instructed to assume"

    i.e. I was given facts that made Lynch look guilty, instructed to instructed to assume them and in my expert opinion, he looks guilty

    Does HPE think anyone is fooled?

    I so look forward to the judge's comments on this.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      Based on this comment by Justice Hildyard "The judge continued, addressing HPE's legal team: "Your expert recognised that whilst it's not what he thinks he would have done, that it wasn't improper in the sense of being beyond what a reasonable auditor could have imagined, in which case, that's that, isn't it?""

      I think I can see where he may be going and that he is no fool.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: Hmm

        Whatever one's opinion of high court judges, to think that they are fools should not be one of them!

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Hmm

      To me, Holgate's statement that "my opinions are given on the basis of the facts I have been instructed to assume" suggests that even he thinks he's been "misdirected".

  8. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    A witness giving a view on things he hasn't looked at himself but been told to "assume"? Does this mean that one of HP's legal team was appearing as a witness of fact? I must have missed it.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      No. He was an expert witness on acceptable accounting practises under IFRS. Normally UK courts only appoint one for both defence and prosecution, but in this case they weren’t going to. But both agreed that accounting for HW sales this way was both legal and acceptable. The difference is whether it makes a material difference to the accounts.

  9. This post has been deleted by a moderator

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Honesty is the best policy. If his expert advice doesn’t swing it HPE’s way, or his evidence is found to be contrary to facts, he’s given the explanation why up front.

      Perhaps HPE should be grateful that the judge didn’t ask about those assumed facts.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        El Reg says they're going to write an article on his evidence next. Their current piece suggests that he was given some possible scenarios and said how he'd recommend doing the accounts in those cases. And that was his evidence.

        Accounting at this level isn't just about making things add up. It's also about making the accounts represent the current state of the company as accurately as possible. But there can often be legitimate differences in how that should be done - and accountants have to take a view on how to do that. One of the things that happens in the audit process is that the auditors challenge management on how they've done this - and then they either have to justify it, or make changes.

        The problem for HPE's case is that if both ways of doing things are legally acceptable, then they've no case for fraud - so long as Autonomy weren't lying in the due dilligence process.

  10. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    Buyer's Remorse

    I got buyer's remorse when I bought a HP Printer a few years back - loss leading hardware and eye-watering software...

    1. Lotaresco
      Joke

      Re: Buyer's Remorse

      "I got buyer's remorse when I bought a HP Printer a few years back - loss leading hardware and eye-watering software..."

      If you're talking about printer ink it isn't software and there's a case to be made that it's wetware. Because it's wet.

      1. adam 40 Bronze badge

        Re: Buyer's Remorse

        Unless it's a laser printer.

        1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

          Re: Buyer's Remorse

          To be fair, previously I had over 15 years of solid service out of a HP Laserjet, and very reasonable consumable cost.

          Back to laser now...

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Flame

        Re: Buyer's Remorse

        Or maybe they are talking about the 128MB printer driver? [1]

        [1] I went to PC World's website, looked for their "most recommended" HP printer which cost about £35, then found the drivers for it on HP's website. Other printers will have drivers of different sizes.

  11. eldakka Silver badge

    These detailed assumptions form part of the next article looking at expert witness testimony.

    I can't wait to see this. I'm nearly peeing my pants in anticipation. (though that could be the beer)

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      So it's not just me!

      Seriously, the coverage if this deserves an award.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I just pity the jury. How long has this been going on ? Everyone knows it's the UK so he will just be let go in the end. Far easier to just send him to the US and be done with it.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      "I just pity the jury"

      There is no jury (unless I've missed a major development): it's a judge-only hearing

      C.

      1. MalIlluminated

        Re: "I just pity the jury"

        If Lynch is "sent over," maybe he'll get really, really, lucky and AC will be selected for jury duty.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "I just pity the jury"

          Swap Lynch for Anne Sacoolas maybe ?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How about the poor judge? I know it’s his job, but even so. I’m surprised he’s not taken one of the many opportunities HPE have given him to reach an instant decision...

      Jury trials for these kind of cases were abandoned because no one could assemble a jury willing to sit for this long.

      I know of a small businessman in my home town who nearly went bust having been called up for a complex case. He narrowly avoided bankruptcy by walking out of the case, the 28 days in jail he was given for contempt being financially preferable to months more jury time.

      There was also the perception that a jury no longer cared a damn one way or other after months of incomprehensible mumbo jumbo, and would more often than not acquit simply to punish the prosecuting authorities.

      Having been a juror myself for only a two week stint I’m not convinced that objectivity survives in the minds of all jurors for even that short period of time. IMHO our jury system completely sucks. The French do it far, far better.

      1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds

        "I know of a small businessman in my home town who nearly went bust having been called up for a complex case. He narrowly avoided bankruptcy by walking out of the case, the 28 days in jail he was given for contempt being financially preferable to months more jury time."

        Really?! He would be entitled to be excused service under those circumstances. If he had informed the court, he'd either have been excused altogether or put on a short case.

        In any case, there's only a £1k fine for refusing at the outset. Perhaps 28 days for contempt, for walking out halfway through a trial, but that's a ludicrous sentence - 24 hours for contempt is considered extreme.

        1. bazza Silver badge

          These days yes, but go back 35+ years and there were far fewer exemptions.

      2. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        acquit simply to punish the prosecuting authorities

        Quite right too. Though to be fair, the prosecuting authorities are merely doing their job.

        Having been a juror myself for only a two week stint I’m not convinced that objectivity survives in the minds of all jurors for even that short period of time.

        If objectivity survives a day, it means the barristers are failing in their job of detaching you from the real world - and naïve ideas like truth or justice that you abandon when you embark on the practice of law.

    3. The Bloke next door

      Pardon?

      If an English court finds Lynch / Autonomy innocent, why would the UK send him to the US?

      As for extradition, forget it. It's not like he killed anyone by driving on the wrong side of the road and then skipping the country.

      1. Venerable and Fragrant Wind of Change

        Re: Pardon?

        If an English court finds Lynch / Autonomy innocent, why would the UK send him to the US?

        Because we have an extradition treaty? I don't think anything that happens in the UK courts is relevant to an extradition request under that treaty.

        1. MrReynolds2U

          Re: Pardon?

          Under "dual criminality" what he's accused of in the US must be a crime under UK law. It must also carry a prison sentence of at least a year.

          Now I'm not sure we have an equivalent of "wire fraud" in the UK. Do we?

    4. sabroni Silver badge

      re: Everyone knows it's the UK so...

      ...spending the most money doesn't automatically mean you win.

      FTFY.

    5. Alan Johnson

      " Far easier to just send him to the US and be done with it."

      So what if he has done nothing wrong, that he was in England and broke no english laws. He embarassed a large american company and rich americans will suffer if they don't find a foreign scapegoat, so he has to pay.

      It is the way that the americans think and act but it is not something we should accept.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        No really, we don't. Not the 99% of us whose wealth is STILL greater than what 99% of humanity has ever dreamed of.

        Certainly, there are always some $$$$$$$ out there, but no.

    6. R3sistance

      "Everyone knows it's the UK so he will just be let go in the end."

      It's the UK, not the US, China or Japan, courts actually do tend to give a shit about actual innocence or guilt here in the UK.

      1. Outski

        Although this is a civil case so it's a question of liability rather than guilt or innocence.

    7. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Anon,

      It's not a criminal prosecution. The Crown Prosecution Services didn't pursue a trial on the grounds of insufficient evidence / chances of getting a conviction.

      This is a civil action on the part of HPE against the directors of Autonomy on the lower standard of evidence required in civil trials - i.e. "in the balance of probabilities" rather than "beyond reasonable doubt" (as required in criminal law).

    8. DontFeedTheTrolls Silver badge
      Mushroom

      "Far easier to just send him to the US and be done with it."

      Why should we send him to the US? It's not like he killed somebody driving negligently.

  13. kipwoo

    Hardware on the Accounts

    I used to work for a Medium sized consultancy, (that it turns out wanted to get bought) selling mostly Services. Occasionally customers would ask us to procure small bits of hardware or software on their behalf. We'd stick a markup of a out 10% on it.

    One day a customer asked us to do it for about 500k worth of hardware, but our accounts team refused to put it through the books. I thought it was madness at the time. The easiest 50k you'll ever earn, why would you turn it down?

    This story now gives me some insight into why that might have been.

    1. Robert Grant

      Re: Hardware on the Accounts

      I don't really see why - they can just report on the two lines separately if they want to.

      1. ColinJ

        Re: Hardware on the Accounts

        It maybe that the company didn't want to assume accountability for the choice of hardware or any issue with reliability etc.

    2. Charlie Boy
      WTF?

      Re: Hardware on the Accounts

      That really doesn't sound right, since when do accounts depts tell sales what they can't sell, unless there's something more to this, like cashflow implications, or dodgey rep of the buyer.

    3. katrinab Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Hardware on the Accounts

      Because you risk making a loss of £450k if the customer doesn't pay up.

      Hardware sales companies have credit insurance in place to deal with this, and the insurance company has to OK the sale before it gets shipped out. Your consultancy almost certainly wouldn't be geared up of that sort of thing.

    4. Ptol

      Re: Hardware on the Accounts

      I think I'd walk away too...

      Been there, done that, when its small bits of kit - and you make a few extra crumbs along the way. Generally for the customer they are wanting to buy something but the actual supplier is not a preferred supplier, so they come to you, their friendly prefered supplier, on the basis that paying an extra $50 saves them the hassle of spending 2 weeks getting yet another preferred supplier agreement in place through purchasing, and they want the kit this week. That makes business sense.

      When its a $500k order though, that needs multiple layers of signoff and will have the purchasing team involved. they are coming to you because they cannot buy direct. Perhaps they couldn't get the credit terms, perhaps they have maxed their credit limit with that supplier. Without knowing with 99% confidence why they cannot go direct, this ain't a runner.

      Finally, theres the downside consequences of doing the deal. As the smaller business, you will inevitably need to pay the 500K to the supplier before you receive the 550K back from your customer. Is 500K a small enough sum that it wont affect your cash flow? What happens if your customer then doesn't pay your invoice? can you swallow the loss?

      This kind of a deal only makes sense if it's small enough that it can go bad with you holding the loss, and you can shrug your shoulders and carry on. Perhaps $1K at a time.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Hardware on the Accounts

      Because they weren't liquid enough to afford it?

      1. Roland6 Silver badge

        Re: Hardware on the Accounts

        >Because they weren't liquid enough to afford it?

        Probably, the Accountants also thought of the VAT liability, £100K due in the period (month) the invoice was raised in, regardless of whether the customer does or doesn't subsequently pay.

    6. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Hardware on the Accounts

      kipwoo,

      There's no accounting reason not to put £500k through the books - and just report it as some other kind of revenue.

      However if you put £500k through the books for hardware sales - you're going to need a significant provision for if that hardware fails. Plus a bad debt provision, if they're buying it on credit. And if it fails before they've paid for it, the two issues can interact in complex and expensive ways, like them refusing to pay up.

      When I worked in finance I think the average bad debt provision was about 2% of total invoiced amount. A reasonable seeming provision for hardware failure might be 5-10%? So your profit is £50k if all goes right, but you'd need financial provisions for if something went wrong of at least half that - which obviously are moved to profit if nothing goes wrong, but it does show you the risks you're taking.

      If you're the contracted seller of said hardware, then you're obviously the people contracted to fix it - even though you may have your own contract with who you bought it from to get them to. So for a small sale, you might not care - for a large one, you might start to get nervous about this risk. As working on a percentage provision is like insurance. The idea is that taking a little from all your jobs insures you against the risk of the one going wrong. But if you only have one £500k hardware sale, and that goes totally titsup, you're on the hook for the whole £500k - with no other profits to offset against it.

      So I'd guess they were just being cautious, and deciding £50k wasn't worth the risk.

  14. Tinslave_the_Barelegged
    Facepalm

    BDO

    > (not to be confused with the British Darts Organisation).

    Are you sure? Most accounting decisions seem to be made by a random throw of a dart.

    1. katrinab Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: BDO

      No they are not.

      People who make their investment decisions by throwing darts at bits of paper get better returns than investment professionals. This has been scientifically proven.

  15. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse Silver badge

    "duped into buying Autonomy"

    I'm still struggling with this. HP weren't "duped" into ACTUALLY buying Autonomy. They may have been "duped" into thinking it was an attractive proposition prior to any due-diligence, but the overarching and common thread across the whole trial being that it seems that they didn't do that proper and formal due-diligence prior to handing over the cheque. Leo himself hilariously confirmed that under oath if I remember correctly.

  16. Charlie Boy
    Facepalm

    Stupid CEOs

    I love this case, it shows so completely why most CEOs should never be allowed to run companies.

    As an accountant the key for me here is how big were the Hardware sales, were they small compared to the software sales, and really just add ons, then they should not be separated, or were they big and had nothing to do with the software sales in which case they should be separate. My guess is that in reality they were somewhere between the 2, and probably towards the smaller end given Autonomy was a "software" company. Where things are grey of course Lynch is going to say do it in the way that makes the accounts look best, no CEO of a listed company would do otherwise.

    The thing to remember with a company especially is that it really is only worth what people are willing to pay, and given how much HPE were willing to pay that is how much Autonomy was worth, the fact they couldn't realise that worth having paid for it is, in my view, down to their own stupidity. I know they didin't have access to all the accounts of Autonomy, but they did have professional advisors, legal, financial, and accounting I assume, and they should have warned HPE about the risks prior to purchase, added to which the board of HPE should have been professionals knowing what they were doing. The fact that HPE so massively overpaid looks like negligence on their part, and as a result they are now trying to shift the blame away from themselves. They should have acted on their due diligence and walked away if they couldn't get all the information they needed to support the value/risk of the acquisition.

    I was always taught the assumption is the mother of all F**K Ups, and clearly even now HPE are making whoppers and guess what, they're still making whopping great F**K Ups.

    1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Stupid CEOs

      I agree, it looks to me like two relatively successful but badly managed companies getting into bed together, each under the assumption that the "marriage" will fix their problems. It illustrates what we see everywhere these days - companies are run to make their corporate managers wealthy, everything else is irrelevant to the managers.

  17. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Nay nay and thrice nay!

    I can't believe you sneakily led me to click on the screenshot from the "International Bean Counters Journal of Obfuscation Techniques" or whatever it's called ...

    I am not an accountant but I actually read some of it accidentally. Is accountancy catching? Can I get cream for the itch and will my hair still fall out? Look at that nice speadsheet over there ... ARGGHHHH!

    Just wrong, so wrong.

  18. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    "wasn't improper in the sense of being beyond what a reasonable auditor could have imagined"

    Ouch

  19. adam payne Silver badge

    ....HPE's expert, said he hadn't seen, writing that "my opinions are given on the basis of the facts I have been instructed to assume"

    I think it's quite obvious what he was instructed to assume.

    The judge continued, addressing HPE's legal team: "Your expert recognised that whilst it's not what he thinks he would have done, that it wasn't improper in the sense of being beyond what a reasonable auditor could have imagined, in which case, that's that, isn't it?"

    Yet again the judge schools the legal team of HPE.

    It's good to see a judge who can see through the smoke and mirrors.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020