As the dust settles from Hewlett-Packard's $8 billion write-down of Autonomy, the debate over who bears the brunt of the blame for the ill-fated acquisition is now kicking into high gear.
In a Q&A during HP's fourth-quarter earnings call Tuesday, Whitman said ex-HP CEO Leo Apotheker and former Chief Strategy Officer Shane Robison were the two main drivers of the deal within the company, but she acknowledged that HP's board of directors also played a role.
"Most of the board was here and voted for this deal and we feel terribly about that," Whitman said in a Q&A during the call.
However, Whitman noted that the board's decision was based on audited data from Deloitte, and HP also hired KPMG to audit Deloitte as a second line of defense. Somehow, neither firm was able to uncover the accounting issues, which means some blame likely will be placed at their doorsteps.
[Related: Partners Blast HP Board For Autonomy Fiasco]
HP has referred the purported Autonomy accounting fraud to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Enforcement Division and the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office for investigation. If the agencies find evidence of wrongdoing, HP says it will then look to recoup some of its losses in civil court as well.
During the Q&A, Whitman was asked for a time frame for when HP's legal actions might yield their desired result, and she said the process will take some time to come to fruition. "I suspect this is a multiyear journey through the courts in both countries," Whitman said in the Q&A.
In the meantime, Whitman told analysts HP is "100 percent committed to Autonomy" and insisted that it will play a "significant role" in the company’s long-term strategy. HP will continue to provide full support to its existing Autonomy customers, she said.
Bret Osborn, president of Lilien Systems, a Larkspur, Calif.-based HP partner, characterized the Autonomy turmoil as "really unfortunate" but said it won't sway his positive opinion of the technology. "There aren't a lot of products that do what Autonomy does," Osborn told CRN. "It allows you to warehouse and make decisions involving a variety of different data feeds."
Mike Lynch, Autonomy's co-founder and former CEO, is denying HP's allegations of accounting fraud. In interviews with several media outlets Tuesday, Lynch accused HP of using the Autonomy issue to cover up its own mismanagement of the company.
Lynch reiterated this point in an interview With All Things Digital, claiming that after the acquisition customers could no longer buy products from Autonomy and instead had to go through HP’s Enterprise Services Group, which marked them up by 30 percent.
PUBLISHED NOV. 21, 2012