Autonomy 'fraud' probe expands

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Autonomy 'fraud' probe expands

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The UK’s anti-fraud agency has confirmed it is investigating British software firm Autonomy, which has been accused of accounting irregularities by its new US owners Hewlett-Packard.

But the Serious Fraud Office said it might have to bow out, because of a conflict of interest in its investigation as it is using a computer document management programme produced by Autonomy.

“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.

HP has said in regulatory documents that the SFO had joined the US Department of Justice and the UK accounting regulator, the Financial Reporting Council, in opening a probe into Autonomy.

The former owners of Autonomy deny Hewlett-Packard’s accusation that its value was inflated prior to the sale. HP bought Autonomy for $11.1 billion in 2011.

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 allegations.