War of words: Autonomy’s co-founder vs. HP’s board

Usually in situations where multi-billion dollar lawsuits seem likely, the sides tend to stay quiet and let their respective lawyers issues bland, non-committal statements about having their day in court. The feud though between Hewlett-Packard Co.‘s (NYSE: HPQ) board of directors and Autonomy PLC co-founder Mike Lynch is not following that mould.

Earlier this month, HP announced it was taking an US$8.8 billion write-down for the fourth quarter and would pursue legal action against unidentified parties, alleging HP was willfully misled as to the value of Autonomy when it purchased the British software company for US$10.2 billion last August.

One would have to think Lynch has spoken with a lawyer, but as CIO reports that’s not stopping him from firing a broadside at HP. Here’s an excerpt from his statement:

“It was shocking that HP put non-specific but highly damaging allegations into the public domain without prior notification or contact with me, as former CEO of Autonomy. I utterly reject all allegations of impropriety. Having no details beyond the limited public information provided last week, and still with no further contact from you, I am writing today to ask you, the board of HP, for immediate and specific explanations for the allegations HP is making. HP should provide me with the interim report and any other documents which you say you have provided to the SEC and the SFO so that I can answer whatever is alleged, instead of the selective disclosure of non-material information via background discussions with the media.”

HP, for its part, isn’t biting. Its own statement was much more circumspect, but made clear it wasn’t backing down.

“While Dr. Lynch is eager for a debate, we believe the legal process is the correct method in which to bring out the facts and take action on behalf of our shareholders. In that setting, we look forward to hearing Dr. Lynch and other former Autonomy employees answer questions under penalty of perjury. The matter is in the hands of the authorities, including the UK Serious Fraud Office, the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s Enforcement Division and the US Department of Justice, and we will defer to them as to how they wish to engage with Dr. Lynch. In addition, HP will take legal action against the parties involved at the appropriate time.”

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
A veteran technology and business journalist, Jeff Jedras began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the booming (and later busting) Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal, as well as everything from municipal politics to real estate. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada. He would go on to cover the channel as an assistant editor with CDN. His writing has appeared in the Vancouver Sun, the Ottawa Citizen and a wide range of industry trade publications.

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