The case put forward at the Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco said HP “concealed” the fact it had bought Autonomy “based on financial statements that could not be relied upon,” and covered up “negative business trends” affecting the profits associated with its services business, incorporating the EDS asset.
The filing comes a week after HP wrote down the value of Autonomy by $8.8bn; just one year after its $10.2bn purchase price was paid out. A statement from HP claimed former members of Autonomy’s management team had used “accounting improprieties, misrepresentations and disclosure failures” to inflate its figures, leading to a much higher selling price than the software firm was worth.
Mike Lynch, founder and former CEO of Autonomy, has denied the accusations but HP has forwarded its complaints to both the UK’s Serious Fraud Office and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for criminal and civil investigation.
HP was also forced to writedown the value of services firm EDS by $8bn this summer, which it bought in August 2008 for $13bn.
Investors believe HP traded on “artificially inflated prices” between 19 August 2011 – three days before it announced the EDS writedown – and 20 November 2012 – the day of the Autonomy writedown – and are claiming damages for all purchasers of HP stock in that time.
The only investor named so far on the filing is Allan J. Nicolow, but the defendants are named as HP, former CEO Leo Apotheker, current head of the company Meg Whitman, current CFO Cathie Lesjak and former chief accounting officer Jim Murrin.
Computer Weekly contacted HP for comment but a spokeswoman said the firm didn’t have an official statement at this time.
The deadline for investors to join the class action is 25 January 2013 and they are being represented by Robbins, Geller, Rudman and Dowd LLP.