And vice versa. HP is suing Autonomy’s former CEO and CFO for $5 billion, citing fraud. They, in turn, are suing HP for almost $150 million in damages, citing ‘false and negligent statements’ made about them on HP’s behalf.
You know the story; HP spends crazy money on Autonomy, a darling of the UK tech sector. The deal blows up in everyone’s face, with all sorts of accusations of financial irregularity, wholly inept due diligence, and ‘differences’ in UK and US accounting practice. HP writes down billions, and shows their CEO the door. Authorities in the US and UK launch formal investigations, which – in the UK, at least – wind up having found insufficient evidence that there’s a winnable case to answer.
And now HP, to all intents and purposes, is just being nasty. They’ll never get $5 billion from Lynch and Hussain. The Autonomy team may have done things that were open to question. And, if they did, they probably shouldn’t get away with it. But HP really needs to move on, and to start associating its brand with good decisions, good products, and good leadership. Reminding everyone, years later, that HP’s board, senior management, and financial advisers all made a string of wholly inept judgements really isn’t good for business. Suing individuals for billions you’ll never get? That just adds pettiness to the stupidity.
But the ones everyone should be asking some hard questions about just seem to be walking away scot-free. The big accountancy firms that did the due diligence, then the due diligence on the due diligence? I can only assume that they skipped their usual practice of winning the contract with a big name partner, only to stick an army of recent college graduates on the job. In this case, they couldn’t find any college graduates, so they hired a bunch of toddlers from the local nursery. Anyone who’d done basic primary school arithmetic would have spotted that something didn’t add up.
Maybe everyone should take a closer look at them… and their practices.