| LONDON, March 12
LONDON, March 12 Britain's fraud-busting agency
said it might have a conflict of interest in its investigation
of Autonomy, a British software company accused of accounting
irregularities by its new U.S. owners Hewlett-Packard Co
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Tuesday it might be
using an Autonomy product, Introspect, as a document management
tool as it formally confirmed that it had opened a criminal
investigation into how the British company was sold.
The agency said it was now making inquires to establish
whether it could continue its probe into allegations that the
U.S. PC and printer maker was duped when it bought Autonomy for
$11.1 billion in 2011.
"The SFO is keen to ensure that there is now no conflict of
interest or perception of such a conflict, and it is obliged as
a first step to make inquiries to ensure that it can continue as
the investigating body," it said in a statement.
The cash-strapped SFO has been dubbed the "Seriously Flawed
Office" since some of its high-profile cases collapsed, or
victories were only partial. Last year's botched probe into
property moguls Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz left it fighting a
300 million pound ($447 million) damages claim.
HP said in regulatory documents filed on Monday that the SFO
had joined the U.S. Department of Justice and the UK accounting
regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, in opening a probe
HP, which bought Autonomy in a bid to make it the
centrepiece of a shift into software, stunned the market a
little over a year after the purchase by writing off three
quarters of the British firm's value.
It alleged "some former members of Autonomy's management
team used accounting improprieties, misrepresentations and
disclosure failures" to inflate the company's apparent worth.
Autonomy has denied the allegations.
Autonomy's former chief executive Mike Lynch, an Irish-born
mathematics whiz who led the firm when it was sold, has blamed
the fall in its valuation on HP's mismanagement. He has hired
one of London's top law firms, Clifford Chance, to contest the