Report: Feds look into HP claims of Autonomy fraud

The FBI is looking into Hewlett Packard’s(s hpq) allegations that Autonomy execs lied about their company’s books prior to HP’s $11.1 purchase of the company last year, according to Bloomberg.

The Bloomberg article cites a “person familiar with the matter” saying that the Securities and Exchange Commission brought in the FBI because criminal acts have been alleged. The news comes a day after HP CEO Meg Whitman charged that Autonomy executives mislead HP about the company’s finances, failed to disclose key information and otherwise behaved badly.  HP said it had referred the matter to the SEC in the US and the UK’s Serious Fraud office.

Former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch has categorically denied the charges and maintains that HP is using them as a smokescreen to disguise its poor fiscal results.  Deloitte had audited Autonomy for years and HP brought in KPMG to look at the books as well. Whitman said neither set of auditors found anything until someone “pointed them in the right direction.”  Lynch left HP in a hurry last May when the company reported dismal results related to Autonomy sales.

This is just the latest in a series of embarassments for HP. When the company, under former CEO Leo Apotheker, launched what was to have been a $10.3 billion buyout of Autonomy, the universal reaction was that the price was too high. Apotheker was ousted soon after the deal was completed and replaced by Whitman.

Whitman said the two HP execs — Apotheker and former Chief Strategy Officer Shane Robison — are both gone. However, she was on HP’s board at the time as was executive director Ray Lane.

 Feature photo courtesy  of Flickr user cliff1066™