The Documents HP didn’t show

HP today published an email from former Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussain to former CEO Mike Lynch, from 10 December 2010, which it claims is evidence of a “CFO in panic” about the performance of the business. It contends this situation caused Mr Lynch to decide to sell the whole company to HP.

This email is taken wildly out of context, reflecting the CFO’s frustrations about the forecasting by parts of the sales force, and how that tracked against internal forecasts. HP has purposefully not shown other emails in the series, showing that Autonomy was on track to meet its expected revenues for the quarter, and indeed did so.

Analyst expectations for Q4 2010 were for revenue of $241 million. The following email shows that the forecast for Q4 on 13 December, despite the concerns in the U.S. identified on 10 December, was still $252 million:

HP Autonomy email

The final result for the quarter came in at $244.5 million, reflecting the fact that some of the revenue had not come in as indicated in the mail of 10 December, but still ahead of market expectations. Below is a copy of the final financial statement that was released to the market:

HP Autonomy Financial Statement

HP is taking an isolated incident to try to paint a picture of a company that was in some way in trouble. The email it has posted actually shows that Autonomy was trying hard to beat market expectations by a significant distance, and the frustrated overreaction of a stressed executive to the management of its internal sales forecasts. It has overlooked the fact that Autonomy delivered on market expectations, and the revenue was converted into cash.

Further, HP is suggesting that this situation led Mike Lynch to take the “radical action” of selling the whole company to HP. This is insanity. Not least because HP had already approached Autonomy about buying it!

This approach by HP is shameful and purposefully misleading. The full facts show that everything was handled properly, nothing was hidden and Autonomy was a strong business performing well. It is HP’s allegation of a “multi billion dollar fraud” that is imaginary.

 

Response to HP out of context court filing

Responding to a court filing made by HP today, a spokesperson for the former Autonomy management team said:

“What we see here is one email taken out of context. The emails around it, which HP has decided not to disclose, show that, although Mr Hussain was extremely frustrated with the unreliability of forecasting of certain sections of the sales force, the company’s forecast for the quarter, even taking out these deals, was still ahead of target. And indeed, the quarter was successfully delivered three weeks later. It is not hard, when going through hundreds of thousand of emails to pick a misleading example if you are prepared not to release other emails around it. The radical action referred to, was the termination of the unreliable sales reps.”

“HP is trying to smear us by leaking partial information and half-truths, here behind the defamation shield of a court filing. After three years, when HP finally starts putting out a case, it turns out to be built on a handful of assumptions that can all be explained, have never been put to the Autonomy team, and prove absolutely nothing. A large number of documents they have chosen not to release show the reality of the situation: that Autonomy was completely open with its auditors, and all accounting details were known to HP and its advisers long before they decided to take a write down. The real story here is HP’s utter mismanagement of Autonomy, which Meg Whitman is attempting to cover up through an increasingly bitter attack campaign. We will not be her scapegoat.”

Response to details in the filing:

HP has posted a long court filing containing many partial pieces of information, taken out of context and used to draw false conclusions. Much of this information has already been selectively leaked to the media. (It should be noted that this information has nothing to do with the actual issue before the court, which is whether HP should be allowed to pay up to $48 million to a group of lawyers to settle a case against it by HP’s shareholders, a settlement Sushovan Hussain has challenged as corrupt.)

Within the document, four further things are mentioned that we respond to below:

Due Diligence

The due diligence information was provided to HP in the format it requested. It was not interested in which resellers’ deals had gone through, but the industries of the intended end users.

Vatican and VAR deals

The fact that a VAR had not sold through to its intended end user is not relevant under IFRS. The VAR decided to become part of this deal so that when the project got underway, it could undertake the services contracts. The Vatican project was substantive and well publicized by the Vatican at the time, including on TV. To claim that the Vatican deal was fake is unsupportable: emails show a large amount of work with the Vatican and that at the time, they were on the verge of signing the deal.

Hosted contracts

The handling of hosted contracts was fully and transparently handled by Deloitte, who concurred with the accounting treatment. Furthermore, the methodology by which these were recognized was discussed with HP and its advisors in detail before the acquisition. Emails show that HP’s CFO and other senior accounting staff were also intimately aware of how Autonomy accounted for hosted deals early on in the acquisition, and played active roles in discussing how this would be converted using US GAAP. The HP CFO expressed no concern about the accounting treatment.

OEM

The definition of OEM is made clear in Autonomy’s annual report and is not the definition now being used by HP. Furthermore, this was discussed in detail with HP before the acquisition.

Hardware

We know that in compiling its adjustments to revenue HP has excluded Autonomy’s hardware sales. This is at odds with its own version of the Autonomy accounts filed with the UK statutory regulator, in which they handled the hardware in exactly the same way. Furthermore, a number of emails and documents show that the highest levels of HP management were well-aware of Autonomy’s hardware sales long before any alleged whistleblower came forward. HP also continued to do the same after it owned the company. The hardware sales were fully disclosed to the auditors and covered in the audit packs, which HP and its advisers had access to. In fact, prior to the acquisition, HP even supplied some of the hardware Autonomy re-sold.

The ledgers of the company and the audit packs show that hardware was correctly booked as “hardware” under the heading “hardware”. These ledgers were reviewed in detail by Hewlett Packard and its advisers.

In short, on 20 November 2012, HP made unsubstantiated allegations in order to justify a rushed write down within that financial year. But it simply hadn’t substantiated those allegations at the time and now can’t back out of that story. HP’s own version of the Autonomy accounts shows that there is no cash missing. This is the simplest fact that shows these allegations are untrue. This was real business and Autonomy got paid for it. On 20 November 2012, HP claimed the alleged wrongdoing was incredibly well-concealed. Since then, many internal HP emails have surfaced showing they were well aware of Autonomy’s accounting practices, and were comfortable with them. The Autonomy audit packs, which HP had access to immediately and were reviewed by it and its advisers, also surfaced all of these items in full clarity.

What we see here is a resumption of partial leaking and smear tactics, which have characterized HP’s behaviour from the outset. We note that Deloitte continues to state that it is fully confident in its work in relation to Autonomy.

Reaction to HP’s Settlement of Shareholder Lawsuit

It seems Meg Whitman will be using a large sum of HP’s money to avoid explaining in court why she made false allegations regarding Autonomy in November 2012. We continue to reject HP’s allegations, and note that over recent months a number of documents have emerged that prove Meg Whitman misled her shareholders. We hope this matter will now move beyond a smear campaign based on selective disclosure and HP will finally give a full explanation.

 

 

 

Note on the Letter from the United States Air Force

Over the past few days, several media outlets have reported on a private letter dated September 2013 from the US Air Force to members of the former senior management of Autonomy and others. The letter concerns the USAF conducting a review of potential future commercial relationships with the former senior management of Autonomy. The USAF letter cites allegations made against the Autonomy management team by Hewlett Packard on 20th November 2012 as the basis for this review. This is an understandable precaution for the US Air Force to take, given the nature of such public allegations made by HP.

We strongly reject HP’s allegations. The few examples seen to date in support of its allegations, such as those cited in the USAF letter, show that HP appears to have had a fundamental misunderstanding of IFRS accounting practices, and we vehemently deny anything improper.

Autonomy was fully transparent with its auditors and correctly represented its accounts. Autonomy’s transactions were entirely properly accounted for under IFRS and reviewed by Autonomy’s auditors as appropriate.

Moreover, in relation to the scale of the $5 billion write down taken by HP on the basis of these allegations, the deals cited in the USAF letter constitute a tiny number of deals of low materiality in the context of Autonomy’s size. Even if these deals had in some way been questionable, they would have had no effect to justify the write-down.

A year on from HP’s initial allegations, despite repeated requests we have still not received detailed allegations or the supporting evidence for them. Rather what we see from HP is unsupported accusations, leaks and PR spin rather than a direct conversation based on the facts.

We have responded to the US Air Force letter addressing the concerns they have raised. This is a private correspondence and it would not be appropriate to discuss it, or any specific issues contained within it, in public. However, given that these issues are being reported in the international media we feel it is important to make clear a couple of general points of fact in relation to the matters at hand:

Summary of Background and Our Response to the US Air Force

The allegations made by HP against Autonomy are false.  Autonomy’s auditor, Deloitte LLP (“Deloitte”), has publicly denied any knowledge of improprieties. Deloitte’s audit reports show that Autonomy was transparent with it and that it reviewed the matters now under consideration in detail.

Autonomy’s disclosure and revenue recognition practices were proper and fully consistent with the standards under which it reported – the International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”) and International Accounting Standards (“IAS”).  Those standards differ from U.S. GAAP and, in many cases, allow for the recognition of revenue earlier than under U.S. GAAP.

As Autonomy’s outside auditor, Deloitte conducted full scope annual audits and limited scope quarterly reviews. As part of its review, it was Deloitte’s policy to review all sales contracts or invoices over $1 million and a sample of contracts worth more than $100,000.

Sales to Value-Added Resellers

Autonomy, like many other companies in the software industry, sold its products to value added resellers, or VARs. The term VARs frequently refers to companies that buy a product (such as software) and then resell that product to an end user together with other products or services.

Under IFRS, for revenue recognition purposes, the VAR is the customer of Autonomy, rather than any potential ultimate end user who might buy the software from the VAR. There is no IFRS revenue recognition requirement that, following the sale to a VAR, there be a subsequent sale from the VAR to an end user, or even that an end user be identified at the time of a sale to a VAR. The VAR assumes the risk of resale, which may occur at any time in the future.

The relevant accounting procedure is governed by IAS 18. Revenue from a sale by an entity such as Autonomy to a VAR buyer may be recognized so long as the five elements of IAS 18 are satisfied, as follows:

(a) the entity has transferred to the buyer the significant risks and rewards of ownership of the goods;

(b) the entity retains neither continuing managerial involvement to the degree usually associated with ownership nor effective control over the goods sold;

(c) the amount of revenue can be measured reliably;

(d) it is probable that the economic benefits associated with the transaction will flow to the entity; and

(e) the costs incurred or to be incurred in respect of the transaction can be measured reliably.

The propriety of any revenue recognition decision is assessed based on the knowledge and circumstances at the time of the recognition decision, not with the benefit of hindsight.

Consistent with IFRS and IAS 18, Autonomy’s revenue-recognition policy provided that sales of IDOL product to a VAR were recognized when the software licenses subject to the sale had been “delivered in the current period, no right of return policy exist[ed], collection [wa]s probable and the fee [wa]s fixed and determinable.” The policy did not require sell-through to an end user before recognizing revenue from a sale to a VAR.  This policy was approved by Deloitte and the Audit Committee and disclosed in the ‘Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements’ section of Autonomy’s Annual Report.

Post Revenue Recognition Events

On a few occasions, following a sale to a VAR and the decision to recognize revenue, a VAR unexpectedly did not ultimately complete its anticipated onward sale.  This could occur because no end user purchased the software.  Those subsequent events do not invalidate the appropriateness of recognizing revenue at the time of sale to the VAR.

This is because, as discussed above, there is no end user requirement for revenue recognition and because the propriety of revenue recognition is assessed based on the circumstances at the time of recognition, and not in hindsight.

Purchases from VARs

As an initial matter, it is common for companies in the technology sector to both sell to, and buy from, other technology companies.  Indeed, it is our understanding that HP itself engages in such transactions.  On the small number of occasions when Autonomy did so, it properly accounted for them.  IAS 18 permits revenue recognition in these circumstances based on the fair value of consideration received for a sale. Deloitte ensured that the relevant elements were met on purchases from customers.

Open letter from Mike Lynch to the shareholders of Hewlett-Packard

Today HP will hold its annual shareholder meeting. This meeting provides a moment of accountability for HP’s Board of Directors to all its stakeholders, and is an appropriate time for the Board to address material questions.

A significant issue for HP’s stakeholders is the allegations HP has made against the former management team of Autonomy in relation to the acquisition of that company, and the related impairment charge of $8.8 billion taken against shareholder funds. As a member of the former management team of Autonomy I have a shared interest with the shareholders of HP (of which I am not one) in getting to the bottom of those allegations, understanding exactly what happened within HP related to this situation and resolving it as soon as possible.

We therefore put forward some questions that we believe HP’s Board of Directors needs to answer at the shareholder meeting:

1. Can the Board provide details and evidence of the allegations it has made against the former management team of Autonomy to shareholders and to the people it has accused, so that everyone can understand the allegations that are being made and how it relates to the decisions and statements the Board has made? Can the Board confirm when it first became aware of these specific allegations? Will the Board provide the report from PwC on which its allegations are based to the former Autonomy management team so that this issue can move toward resolution? Will the Board also make available the conclusions of the findings of the recently appointed committee investigating the circumstances of the acquisition?

2. How did HP calculate the impairment charge it has taken against Autonomy? Several qualified commentators, including a former Chief Accountant of the SEC, have questioned how the alleged irregularities in Autonomy’s accounting could generate such a large write-down. How much of the impairment charge was related to the operating performance of Autonomy post-acquisition?

3. Did HP approach the UK Takeover Panel at any stage in an attempt to rescind its offer to buy Autonomy before completion? If so what was the reason it gave and why was this material change of view not communicated to shareholders?

4. The former management of Autonomy began alerting Ms Whitman as early as December 2011 to significant problems with the integration of Autonomy into HP that were negatively impacting its performance. When did Ms Whitman acknowledge that Autonomy was not performing against expectations? Why was this not communicated to shareholders at that time?

5. Will HP commit to behaving in a transparent manner in providing information about these allegations and the legal processes that have been set in motion? This includes not pre-empting announcements by regulatory authorities and not waiting long periods to disclose information.

We continue to reject the allegations made against us by HP and believe it is in the interests of all parties that these questions be addressed directly by the Board so this issue can be resolved as swiftly as possible. HP has acted in an aggressive and unusual manner throughout this episode, making highly damaging public accusations without providing any supporting evidence, either to the public or to the people they have accused.

As we have said before, we believe the problem with the Autonomy acquisition by HP lies in the mismanagement of that business by HP under its ownership, making it impossible for Autonomy to deliver on HP’s expectations. Autonomy’s accounts were fully audited by Deloitte throughout the period in question and Deloitte has confirmed that it conducted its audit work in full compliance with regulation and professional standards. We refuse to be a scapegoat for HP’s own failings.

Dr. Mike Lynch

HP is back-tracking

“In a message posted on this website a week ago today, we urged Meg Whitman to use HP’s annual 10-K filing to provide a full explanation of the allegations of alleged accounting impropriety at Autonomy which she made on November 20. Unfortunately, she did not do so. HP finally filed its 10-K yesterday, more than a week later than usual, but again failed to provide any detailed information on the alleged accounting impropriety, or how this could possibly have resulted in such a substantial write down.

HP’s failure to provide us and its own shareholders with clarity on these crucial issues does not come as much of a surprise. Ever since putting out those very serious but non-specific allegations last month, HP has refused to disclose either the substance of its allegations or any supporting evidence.

In fact, HP’s 10-K filing appears to raise many more questions than it answers. Having had further time to study HP’s filing since it was released near midnight last night (UK time), it is apparent that a number of the statements contained within the filing are materially different from HP’s previous commentary on these issues. It also appears that the company is back-tracking on a number of key points that under-pinned its original allegations:

1. How much of the Autonomy write down is actually being blamed on alleged accounting improprieties?

In its November 20 statement, HP stated that “The majority of [the Autonomy] impairment charge, more than $5 billion, is linked to serious accounting improprieties, misrepresentation and disclosure failures” committed by “former members of Autonomy’s management team”. However, HP’s 10-K filing refers much more equivocally to a $5.7 billion goodwill impairment charge that “incorporates” the alleged accounting improprieties at Autonomy. So, how much of the $5.7 billion is being directly attributed by HP to alleged accounting improprieties, and how much should in fact be attributed to other changes in business performance, earnings projections and discount rate?

2. Does HP have facts or beliefs?

In its November 20 statement, HP was definitive in accusing “former members of Autonomy’s management team” of “serious accounting improprieties, misrepresentation and disclosure failures”, stating these matters as fact. However, HP’s 10-K filing is materially weaker, referring to its interpretation of alleged accounting improprieties which it “believes” to have taken place at Autonomy. Why did it make such definitive assertions before any independent assessment of the matter, and why is it less confident now than it was a month ago?

3. Why does the 10-K contain less detail than its last statement?

HP’s November 20 statement clearly leveled the accusations at “former members of Autonomy’s management team”. However, HP’s 10-K filing does not repeat – let alone expand upon – this specific detail, or indicate who it is accusing of wrongdoing. Every time we ask for more information, we get less.

Today we renew the call for HP to release the PwC report on which its allegations are based, along with any other relevant supporting evidence that was behind the statements of November 20, and explain the material differences between those statements and the 10-K.

It is time for Meg Whitman to stop making allegations and to start offering explanations.”

Mike Lynch

Response to HP 2012 annual report filing

“It is extremely disappointing that HP has again failed to provide a detailed calculation of its $5 billion write down of Autonomy, or publish any explanation of the serious allegations it has made against the former management team, in its annual report filing today.

Furthermore, it is now less clear how much of the $5 billion write down is in fact being attributed to the alleged accounting issues, and how much to other changes in business performance and earnings projections. This appears to be a material change in HP’s allegations.

Simply put, these allegations are false, and in the absence of further detail we cannot understand what HP believes to be the basis for them.

We also do not understand why HP is raising these issues now given that Autonomy reported into the HP Finance team from the day the acquisition completed in October 2011, there was an extensive due diligence process and Autonomy was audited as a public company for many years.

We would particularly make the following points:

* HP’s CFO Cathie Lesjak and her team, plus a number of outside advisors, had access to all Autonomy accounts and documents from October 2011 onwards, and raised no issues.

* Beginning in November 2011, HP and KPMG reviewed Autonomy’s closing balance sheet in detail, and Ernst & Young reviewed Deloitte’s audit work papers.

* Beginning in October 2011, HP studied in detail Autonomy’s tax structure and transfer pricing as well as its revenue recognition practices (led by Paul Curtis, HP’s worldwide head of revenue recognition).

* An independent third party valuation of Autonomy’s assets was carried out in January 2012.

* Quarterly business reviews were held with Autonomy management, Meg Whitman and Cathie Lesjak to discuss Autonomy’s financial performance.

* HP has continued to sell and account for hardware alongside Autonomy software in the same way that Autonomy did for the year since the acquisition completed.

* Regarding differences between IFRS and US GAAP accounting standards, which appear to have a role in some of the allegations HP has made, Autonomy’s accounting policies were made clear in Autonomy’s 2010 annual report.

We also note the statement in HP’s annual report that it received confirmation from the US Department of Justice on 21 November 2012 (the day after HP’s first public statement), that the Department had opened an investigation. We can confirm that we have as yet had no contact from any regulatory authority. We will co-operate with any investigation and look forward to the opportunity to explain our position.

We continue to reject these allegations in the strongest possible terms. Autonomy’s financial accounts were properly maintained in accordance with applicable regulations, fully audited by Deloitte, and available to HP during the due diligence process.

We remain deeply concerned about how this process has been conducted, and believe it is in everyone’s interests for it to be resolved as soon as as possible.”

Mike Lynch

An update from Mike Lynch

Thank you for coming to this site over the past few weeks. It has now been over a month since Meg Whitman, the CEO of Hewlett Packard, launched a series of allegations against me and my former colleagues. This site will remain the place where we post information that is relevant for the outside world as we continue to reject these allegations.

I’m glad that people have taken the time to hear from me directly. I would also like to take this moment to thank everyone for the huge amount of support and friendly messages you have sent to us through the site. This has been a very difficult time and we appreciate your support a great deal.

Ever since Meg Whitman launched these accusations we have been asking what she meant. I’m sorry to say we have got no further and we are still waiting for her to explain her claims and provide the material on which they are based.

As I have said before, we do not understand the allegations, or how they could possibly add up to a write down of over $5 billion.

In the absence of greater clarity from Meg, we are looking now to HP’s 10-K filing that is due before the end of the year. This document should  contain information about finances and management that all American businesses are required to lodge each year with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. We look forward to HP providing in it a comprehensive disclosure and explanation of its position and calculations.

I won’t go into the detail of our rebuttal again, for it is set out clearly in the open letter published here on the site. All I will say is that I look forward to this situation being resolved as soon as possible.

The technology industry remains one of the most exciting areas in the world to live and work in. New innovations are taking place every day, all around us. I am looking forward to 2013 being another year of tremendous progress.

Thank you again for your interest and support.

Merry Christmas,

Mike Lynch