Autonomy founder turns to Clifford Chance over HP controversy

Clifford Chance has been instructed by Autonomy founder Mike Lynch amid allegations of accounting irregularities prior to the UK software group’s takeover by Hewlett-Packard (HP) last year.

The magic circle firm confirmed its role advising the entrepreneur and other former management figures at Autonomy, which has been the subject of claims of impropriety, misrepresentation and disclosure failures since last month.

These figures include former Autonomy CFO Sushovan Hussain, according to Reuters, which reported that the firm had been hired in the last week to represent the group of individuals.

HP published the allegations on 20 November following an internal investigation overseen by executive vice-president and general counsel John Schultz after a senior member of Autonomy’s management team approached the American acquirer with the claims. The probe involved a review by accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

On the same day, HP unveiled a write-down of $8.8bn related to Autonomy, saying more than $5bn of it was linked to the alleged accounting irregularities. It bought the company for $11bn in 2011.

HP said it had no knowledge or visibility of details of these allegations before the senior figure came forward.

Lynch, who left HP earlier this year, responded on 27 November to reject all the allegations, stating that it was “shocking that HP put non-specific but highly damaging allegations into the public domain without prior notification or contact with me, as former CEO of Autonomy”.

Lynch’s departure from the company in May was widely described in the media as a sacking.

Lynch said in a statement: “Autonomy’s finances, during its years as a public company and including the time period in question, were handled in accordance with applicable regulations and accounting practices. Autonomy’s accounts were overseen by independent auditors Deloitte, who have confirmed the application of all appropriate procedures including those dictated by the International Financial Reporting Standards used in the UK.”

HP was advised on the 2011 acquisition by Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, while Slaughter and May led for Autonomy (19 August 2011).

Lynch founded Autonomy in 1996.

Deloitte was not immediately available for comment.