Britain’s Serious Fraud Office ends investigation into Autonomy sale to HP

SFO says that, on the information available to it, there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction

 Michael  Lynch,  founder and chief executive of Autonomy: “HP now faces serious questions of its own about its conduct in this case and the false statements it has made.”. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Michael Lynch, founder and chief executive of Autonomy: “HP now faces serious questions of its own about its conduct in this case and the false statements it has made.”. Photograph: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

 

Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has closed its investigation into the ill-fated sale of Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard in 2011, saying there was not enough evidence to secure a conviction of the software firm’s former executives.

Autonomy was supposed to be the $11.1 billion (€9.56 billion) centrepiece of a shift into software for HP, but the deal turned sour a year later when it wrote off three-quarters of the company’s value.

HP alleged “some former members of Autonomy’s management team used accounting improprieties, misrepresentations and disclosure failures” to inflate the company’s apparent worth by more than $5 billion (€4.31 billion). Autonomy’s former management, including company founder Mike Lynch, has denied the allegations.

HP said it passed information supporting its claims from an unidentified whistleblower to the US Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the SFO.

The SFO, which started its investigation in early 2013, said: “In respect of some aspects of the allegations, the SFO has concluded that, on the information available to it, there is insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction.” It said it had ceded jurisdiction over other aspects of the case to US authorities, whose investigation is ongoing.

Mr Lynch, an Irish-born mathematician who led the firm when it was sold, welcomed the SFO decision. “Let’s remember: HP made allegations of a $5 billion fraud and presented the case in public as a slam dunk,” he said. “HP now faces serious questions of its own about its conduct in this case and the false statements it has made.” – (Reuters)