Former Autonomy CEO Mike Lynch has been charged with fraud in the US, over a number of offences, including making false and misleading statements and withholding information from the company’s auditors.
The 14 charges relate to Lynch’s sale of Autonomy to Hewlett-Packard for $11bn in 2011 after allegedly overstating Autonomy’s financial results. Autonomy’s former vice president of finance Stephen Chamberlain, who was responsible for the company’s financial statements, also faces charges.
The deal turned sour relatively quickly, and by 2013 it was already under investigation by the US Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the UK Financial Reporting Council, while HP had written off $5bn from the deal
The indictment filed with the US District Court for the District of Northern California reported that the scheme to defraud began in early 2009 by Lynch, Chamberlain and former CFO Sushovan Hussain, who has also been charged with fraud, to deceive purchasers and sellers about the true performance of Autonomy’s business.
The alleged scheme aimed to increase their positions within the company and to ‘enrich’ themselves through bonuses and to artificially increase and maintain the share price of Autonomy to make the company more attractive to potential buyers.
The methods used included backdating written agreements to record revenues in prior periods and restructuring contracts to accelerate revenue recognition.
According to the charge, Lynch and Chamberlain made false and misleading statements to the company’s auditors about the facts and circumstances of transactions allegedly supporting the recognition of revenues, expenses and costs.
They were also purported to have made the auditors believe they had been provided with all relevant information, when in fact this was not the case.
Lynch’s lawyers have reportedly said: “HP has sought to blame Autonomy for its own crippling errors, and has falsely accused Mike Lynch to cover its own tracks. Mike Lynch will not be a scapegoat for their failures. He has done nothing wrong and will vigorously defend the charges against him.”
If convicted, Lynch and Chamberlain will have to forfeit any proceeds derived from the violations to an amount no less than $815m and $4m respectively. Lynch could also face twenty years in prison.