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HP alleges accounting fraud led it to purchase Autonomy

After six years of investigations, federal prosecutors have launched a trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California based on accusations of fraud against the chief financial officer of Autonomy Corp. Hewlett-Packard Co. purchased Autonomy, a U.K.-based software company, in 2011 for $10.3 billion. A year later, HP had to write down the value of the company by $8.8 billion. It attributed the loss to false financials that convinced HP to buy the company in the first place.

The prosecution asserts that Autonomy cooked its books with fraudulent accounting techniques like channel surfing and pretend deliveries. The former head of Autonomy's sales in the United States will testify for the prosecution as part of an agreement to avoid criminal charges.

The legal team representing Autonomy described the former sales head as an informant trying to avoid responsibility for wrongdoing. Additionally, representatives for Autonomy insisted that HP's poor management inflicted the problems that caused its acquisition to lose value. The defense presented information to the jury that highlighted a series of losses experienced by HP after acquisitions of companies like Electronic Data Systems and Compaq.

Acquisitions represent only one source for potential conflicts between business entities. A business owner or executive involved in disputes regarding corporate governance, breach of fiduciary duty or contracts might want support from an attorney experienced in business litigation. Analysis by an attorney could provide insights about how to pursue or defend a legal claim. An attorney might also bring in other professionals to review records and provide testimony. In many cases, these types of controversies are settled outside of the courtroom.

Source: Accounting Today, "HP-Autonomy fraud trial is spun for jury as $9B whodunit", Joel Rosenblatt, Feb. 27, 2018

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