Make us your home page
Instagram

HP claims fraud prompted $5 billion overpayment for company

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman says the accounting moves made by Autonomy were designed to bring an acquisition.

Getty Images (2010)

Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman says the accounting moves made by Autonomy were designed to bring an acquisition.

NEW YORK — Hewlett-Packard Co. said Tuesday that it's the victim of a multibillion-dollar fraud at the hands of a British company it bought last year that lied about its finances.

HP chief executive Meg Whitman said executives at Autonomy Corp. "willfully" boosted the company's figures through various accounting tricks, which persuaded HP to pay $9.7 billion for the company in October 2011.

Autonomy's former CEO, Mike Lynch, said HP's allegations are false.

HP is taking an $8.8 billion charge to align Autonomy's purchase price with what HP now says is its real value. More than $5 billion of that charge is due to false accounting, HP said.

The revelation is another blow for HP, which is struggling to reinvent itself as PC and printer sales shrink. HP's stock dipped $1.59, or 12 percent, to close at $11.71 in Tuesday's trading.

Among other things, Autonomy makes search engines that help companies find vital information stored across computer networks. Acquiring it was part of an attempt by HP to strengthen its portfolio of high-value products and services for corporations and government agencies. The deal was approved by Whitman's predecessor, Leo Apotheker, but closed three weeks into Whitman's tenure as chief executive.

Among the tricks used at Autonomy, Whitman said: The company had been booking the sale of computers as software revenue and claiming the cost of making the machines as a marketing expense. Revenue from long-term contracts was booked up front, instead of over time.

The allegations are serious, according to accounting experts.

"According to GAAP (generally accepted accounting principles), the overstatement of revenue under any tax code is illegal," said Mark Williams, a finance professor at Boston University and a former bank examiner for the Federal Reserve.

As a result of its alleged accounting practices, Autonomy appeared to be more profitable than it was and seemed to be growing its core software business faster than was actually the case. The moves were apparently designed to groom the company for an acquisition, Whitman said.

HP's net loss for the fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Oct. 31, amounted to $6.85 billion, compared with net income of $239 million in the same period last year.

HP claims fraud prompted $5 billion overpayment for company 11/20/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 8:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Pinellas licensing board asks Sen. Jack Latvala for $500,000 loan

    Local Government

    The troubled Pinellas County agency that regulates contractors wants Sen. Jack Latvala to help it get a $500,000 lifeline from the state to stay afloat.

    State Sen . Jack Latvala, R- Clearwater, is being asked to help the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board get $500,000 from the state so it can stay open beyond February.  [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  2. In advertising, marketing diversity needs a boost in Tampa Bay, nationally

    Business

    TAMPA — Trimeka Benjamin was focused on a career in broadcast journalism when she entered Bethune-Cookman University.

    From left, Swim Digital marketing owner Trimeka Benjamin discusses the broad lack of diversity in advertising and marketing with 22 Squared copywriter Luke Sokolewicz, University of Tampa advertising/PR professor Jennifer Whelihan, Rumbo creative director George Zwierko and Nancy Vaughn of the White Book Agency. The group recently met at The Bunker in Ybor City.
  3. Tampa Club president seeks assessment fee from members

    News

    TAMPA — The president of the Tampa Club said he asked members last month to pay an additional assessment fee to provide "additional revenue." However, Ron Licata said Friday that the downtown business group is not in a dire financial situation.

    Ron Licata, president of the Tampa Club in downtown Tampa. [Tampa Club]
  4. Under Republican health care bill, Florida must make up $7.5 billion

    Markets

    If a Senate bill called the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 becomes law, Florida's government would need to make up about $7.5 billion to maintain its current health care system. The bill, which is one of the Republican Party's long-promised answers to the Affordable Care Act imposes a cap on funding per enrollee …

    Florida would need to cover $7.5 billion to keep its health care program under the Republican-proposed Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.  [Times file photo]
  5. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]