Technology company HP has agreed to pay $6 million in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to resolve allegations of disclosure violations and control failures regarding improper sales practices.
The settlement, announced Wednesday, includes a cease-and-desist order agreed to by HP, which did not admit or deny the SEC’s findings.
According to the SEC’s order, from November 2015 to June 2016, regional managers at HP used incentive tactics to “pull in” supply sales from future quarters to the current quarter. These efforts to reach revenue targets also included managers in one region selling printing supplies at a discount to “distributors known to be involved in selling the HP printing supplies outside of their territory … causing significant margin erosion and cannibalization of HP sales in other regions,” the SEC explained.
Such tactics were in violation of HP policy and distributor agreements. Further, HP failed to disclose the known trends and uncertainties associated with these sales practices, according to the SEC.
HP in June 2016 announced a change to its go-to-market model to, in part, address these undisclosed practices. The company “undertook a channel inventory reduction that reduced its net revenue by approximately $450 million during the third and fourth quarters of 2016,” the SEC said, adding the announcement of the change resulted in a stock price drop of nearly 6 percent.
“Investors are entitled to accurate disclosures of business trends that are likely to have a material impact on a company’s future revenues or operating profits,” said Melissa Hodgman, an associate director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, in a press release. “HP’s failure to disclose the foreseeable negative impact of its use of pull-ins and other sales practices created a misleading and incomplete picture of the company’s financial condition.”
As a result of its alleged actions, HP violated the anti-fraud, reporting, and disclosure controls provisions of the federal securities laws, the SEC said.