Big data analytics firm puts HP in big financial hole

More HP investor lawsuits likely after Autonomy irregularities

More HP (NYSE: HPQ) investors are expected to follow the lawsuit filed Monday by Allan Nicolow alleging HP management concealed problems in the firm's acquisitions of big data analytics firm Autonomy.

Nicolow filed the class action lawsuit in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, accusing top HP execs of violating U.S. federal security laws by issuing "false and misleading" statements about Autonomy's worth when it purchased the company for $11 billion in August, according to a report by the San Jose Mercury News.

HP stunned the financial world when it reported a staggering $6.9 billion net loss last week. It blamed the loss on a noncash impairment charge of $8.8 billion related to its acquisition of Autonomy, a British big data analytics firm that helps enterprises mine the data they generate.

HP blamed the huge charge on financial irregularities at Autonomy prior to its purchase by the U.S. high tech firm and said it was referring the issue to the U.S. and U.K. securities fraud agencies.

"HP is extremely disappointed to find that some former members of Autonomy's management team used accounting improprieties, misrepresentations and disclosure failures to inflate the underlying financial metrics of the company, prior to Autonomy's acquisition by HP. These efforts appear to have been a willful effort to mislead investors and potential buyers, and severely impacted HP management's ability to fairly value Autonomy at the time of the deal," HP said in a statement.

A senior member of Autonomy's management blew the whistle on "questionable accounting and business practices" at the British firm prior to its acquisition. The whistle blower came forward after Autonomy founder Mike Lynch left the company earlier this year, HP said.

Lynch, however, is not taking this lying down. He launched a counterattack against HP, alleging that the losses at Autonomy were the result of mismanagement of the big data analytics firm after the acquisition.

In an interview with the New York Times, Lynch claimed HP "drove out the top 100 people from Autonomy, and a bunch of trainees were put in" to sell Autonomy products.

Whichever side is right matters less than the financial and legal blows HP has recently suffered. HP's new CEO Meg Whitman is trying to right the HP ship. Whether she can do that before the ship sinks remains to be seen.

For more:
- see the HP financial results and statement
- read the New York Times interview

Related articles:
Enterprise communications in the third quarter of 2012
Booming data market to spur tech M&A frenzy in 2012