In HP-Autonomy debacle, many advisers but little good advice

Wed Nov 21, 2012 11:15am EST
 
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By Nadia Damouni and Nicola Leske

(Reuters) - When Hewlett Packard acquired Autonomy last year for $11.1 billion, some 15 different financial, legal and accounting firms were involved in the transaction -- and none raised a flag about what HP said Tuesday was a major accounting fraud.

HP stunned Wall Street with the allegations about its British software unit and took an $8.8 billion writedown, the latest in a string of reversals for the storied company.

HP Chief Executive Meg Whitman, who was a director at the company at the time of the deal, said the board had relied on accounting firm Deloitte for vetting Autonomy's financials and that KPMG was subsequently hired to audit Deloitte.

HP had many other advisers as well: boutique investment bank Perella Weinberg Partners to serve as its lead adviser, along with Barclays. Banking advisers on both sides of the deal were paid $68.8 million, according to data from Thomson Reuters/Freeman Consulting.

Barclays pocketed the biggest banker fee of the transaction at $18.1 million and Perella was paid $12 million. The company's legal advisers included Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Drinker Biddle & Reath; and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which advised the board.

On Autonomy's side of the table were Frank Quattrone's Qatalyst Partners, which specializes in tech deals and which picked up $11.6 million.

UBS, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America were also advising Autonomy and were paid $5.4 million each. Slaughter & May and Morgan Lewis served as the company's legal advisers.

While regulators in the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, are likely to spend many months if not years investigating what happened, legal experts said on Tuesday that it wasn't clear if any of the advisers would ultimately be held liable.   Continued...

 
A HP Invent logo is pictured in front of Hewlett-Packard international offices in Meyrin near Geneva in this August 4, 2009, file photo. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/Files