HP, Autonomy trade barbs as lawsuit against ex-CFO looms

Mon Aug 4, 2014 10:37pm IST

A Hewlett-Packard logo is seen at the company's Executive Briefing Center in Palo Alto, California January 16, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam/Files

A Hewlett-Packard logo is seen at the company's Executive Briefing Center in Palo Alto, California January 16, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stephen Lam/Files

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(Reuters) - Hewlett-Packard Co (HPQ.N) said it would sue former Autonomy Chief Financial Officer Sushovan Hussain as he seeks to block HP's settlement of three shareholder lawsuits over its troubled purchase of the British software company.

Hussain is trying to block the settlement, saying HP officials were wrongly absolved in the ill-fated acquisition of Autonomy for $11.1 billion in 2011. HP wrote down Autonomy's value by $8.8 billion a year later and accused Autonomy officials of accounting fraud, which those executives have denied.

In the settlement, reached on June 30, shareholders had agreed to end efforts to force current and former HP officials, including Chief Executive Officer Meg Whitman, to pay damages to the Palo Alto, California-based company over its Autonomy purchase.

Instead, the shareholders agreed to help HP pursue claims against former Autonomy officials such as Hussain and former CEO Michael Lynch, who have denied wrongdoing.

"The notion that (Hussain) should be permitted to intervene and challenge the substance of a settlement designed to protect the interests of the company he defrauded is ludicrous," HP said in a strongly worded court filing on Monday.

"The shareholder plaintiffs who originally sued HP’s directors and officers now agree that Hussain, along with Autonomy’s founder and CEO, Michael Lynch, should be held accountable for this fraud."

Last month, Hussain said in a court filing that the "collusive and unfair" settlement, if approved by a federal judge, would let HP "forever bury from disclosure the real reason for its 2012 write-down of Autonomy: HP's own destruction of Autonomy's success after the acquisition."

"This breathless ranting from HP is the sort of personal smear we’ve come to expect. As the emotional outbursts go up, the access to facts seems to go down," Autonomy said in a statement in response to HP's filing.

"Meg Whitman is buying off a bunch of lawyers so she doesn’t have to answer charges of incompetence and misdirection in front of a judge and jury."

The case is In re: Hewlett-Packard Co Shareholder Derivative Litigation, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, No. 12-06003.

(Reporting by Supantha Mukherjee in Bangalore; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and David Gregorio)

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