A federal grand jury has delivered indictments against former Autonomy executives in connection with HP’s failed acquisition of the U.K. technology business.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Autonomy founder and former CEO Michael Lynch, as well as Stephen Chamberlain, former vice president of finance at Autonomy, will face charges of fraud and conspiracy in connection with HP’s $11 billion acquisition of Autonomy in 2012. The pair are accused of taking a number of measures to obscure the true financial condition and growth prospects for Autonomy.
Autonomy’s former CFO, Sushovan Hussain, was convicted on 16 counts of conspiracy, wire fraud, and securities fraud in connection with the transaction. Hussain is reportedly appealing that conviction, which prompted U.K. regulators at the Financial Reporting Council to put their own action in hiatus. U.S. authorities say Hussain used “backdated contracts, roundtrips, channel stuffing, and other forms of accounting fraud” to inflate the tech company’s publicly reported revenue by 12 percent to 21 percent from 2009 to 2011.
In late 2012, HP marked down the goodwill sitting on its balance sheet by $8.8 billion, attributing $5 billion of it to accounting improprieties discovered after the acquisition and $3.8 billion to declines in market values and performance. Goodwill is the intangible asset that arises with business acquisitions, representing the value a company acquires in a unit that exceeds the sum value of its individual assets and liabilities. Investors like to track goodwill as a way of determining whether an acquired unit is delivering value.
Lynch and Chamberlain are accused of inflating Autonomy’s revenue with backdated agreements and side letters, among other maneuvers. The charges say the two former executives lied to or misled auditors, analysts, and regulators. They are also accused of misrepresenting the company’s business by hiding hardware resale activity, making false statements about the company’s original equipment business, and intimidating or paying off people who raised complaints or criticized the company’s practices or performance.
All together, Lynch and Chamberlain face one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 13 counts of wire fraud. Maximum penalties include 20 years prison and a fine of $250,000, plus restitution, for each count.
Lynch faced plenty of scrutiny when HP reported its infamous $8.8 billion impairment to goodwill in 2016. “I utterly reject all allegations of impropriety,” he wrote in an open letter to the company.
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