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PreCentral: HP writes down $8.8 billion over 'improprieties' in the Autonomy acquisition (i.e. they lied)

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HP writes down $8.8 billion over 'improprieties' in the Autonomy acquisition (i.

It was a little over two years ago that

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. Apotheker came from a short tenure as CEO of
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, from which he'd been forced out after poor performance during an admittedly poor economic environment. At the time, we expressed our misgivings over the pick;
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, having spent twenty years at SAP (which is small in comparison to HP). Sure,
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, but HP also still had a massive and dominating consumer hardware enterprise and had just months prior completed its
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.

We all know what happened next: within a year HP

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, announced a plan to
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, and purchased UK-based enterprise software company Autonomy for $10.2 billion. A month later,
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as he was dumped in favor of former Ebay CEO Meg Whitman,
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.

Today, in conjunction with announcing their fiscal year 2012 results, HP declared an $8.8 billion write-down loss related to the purchase of Autonomy. Specifically, the charge is related to the revelation that "members of Autonomy’s management team used accounting improprieties, misrepresentations and disclosure failures to inflate the underlying financial metrics of the company" before HP's purchase. In other words, they lied about how much Autonomy was worth and how much money it could make for HP, leading to HP overpaying by billions of dollars for the company (The purchase price at the time was more than 80% higher than Autonomy's stock price; when HP bought Palm they paid a mere 23% premium over the trading price).

After writing down

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and
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related to a failure to actualize the value of their 2008 purchase of enterprise services company EDS, the last thing HP needed was another multi-billion write-down. But here we are, bringing the one-year write-down total to over $20 billion. Without the EDS and Autonomy write-downs, HP actually would have only suffered a loss of $600 million for the year, which while not great, looks downright rosy given the situation HP found itself in a year ago and the $12.7 billion paper loss now on the books.

Understandably, HP's not happy about this debacle, and make no mistake, this is a debacle. HP says that they have contacted both the US SEC Enforcement Division and the UK Serious Fraud Office for "civil and criminal investigation". And not wanting to leave it up to the feds, HP's also "preparing to seek redress against various parties in the appropriate civil courts to recoup what it can for its shareholders." In other words, "We'll see you in court."

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